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Chalk hits the dust

Government puts pound;25m into interactive whiteboards. Michael Shaw and Dorothy Lepkowska report.

Schools are to get a share of pound;25 million in government cash for new technology in the classroom.

Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, said the money would be used for interactive whiteboards to support his aim of tailoring every pupil's learning to their needs.

He unveiled the plans at the BETT education technology show in London this week.

Mr Clarke said: "ICT transforms education and the way that children learn.

It is about what technology can do to meet the personal needs of every learner, raising their aspirations and achievement."

He said he would change the rules to allow schools to invest in technology money set aside to spend on buildings if they wanted.

"We need to make sure that every pupil gets the most out of the technology available, and schools are best placed to decide where the money should be spent."

Average spending on information and communications technology has risen in primaries from pound;68m in 1998 to pound;201m in 2003 and, in secondaries, from pound;143m in 1998 to pound;223m in 2003.

Whiteboards are large, touch-sensitive boards connected to a computer and projector which use video, animation, graphics and sound.

The BETT show, which ends tomorrow, is expected to attract more than 20,000 visitors.

Highlights included the annual ICT in Practice awards, organised by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, which were due to be presented yesterday by Stephen Twigg, education junior minister.

Among the winners was David Lunn, vice-principal of Soham Village college, who received the prize for secondary leadership. Judges said the decision was unconnected to the tragic events in Soham and the college, whose former caretaker Ian Huntley murdered Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Dr Lunn was rewarded for his radical decision to move the teaching of ICT from normal lesson time to the "twilight" period of 4pm to 5.30pm. The 13 winners each received pound;2,500 for themselves and an additional pound;2,500 for their schools.

Other winners included former RAF pilot Steve Ungi, who transformed design and technology teaching at Harrow Way community school, and Bob Overton, arts co-ordinator at Mere Oaks special school in Wigan.

The TES was among the sponsors of the awards. The ceremony included a keynote speech by Stephen Heppell, director of the pioneering Ultralab educational research centre at Anglia Polytechnic university.

Professor Heppell warned delegates that the companies whose priority was to produce the cheapest education software systems risked "dumbing down" the curriculum.

He said it was time the education world began to influence businesses: "The management of Kwikfit or any national company could learn a lot from the on-line networks developed for teachers," he said. Videos showing the ICT in Practice award winners at work in the classroom will appear next week on the TES website, www.tes.co.uk.

BETT's website is www.bettshow.atk.aspect-internet.com

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