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Clarke promises most staff will get laptops

Education Secretary agrees to provide cash to extend computers for teachers scheme. Michael Shaw reports.

TWO-thirds of teachers will be offered their own laptop or PC by 2006, Education Secretary Charles Clarke has pledged.

The promise is part of a "digital revolution" to boost computer use in schools which the minister was due to announce at the annual BETT education technology trade show in London yesterday.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said the extra computers would be funded by spending an additional pound;195 million on the existing Laptops For Teachers scheme. This has provided 53,000 staff with computers.

Schools will also be given an additional pound;280m of "e-learning credits" over three years. This will allow them to download curriculum material from companies registered on the Government's Curriculum Online website, which was officially launched yesterday. Funding for all these projects will come from a planned increase in Government spending on ICT in education to pound;600 million a year by 2005, announced last month. Extra money will also go towards putting professional development material for teachers online, equipping schools with broadband technology and setting up a Curriculum Online scheme for further education, titled Colleges Online.

The announcement of the e-learning credits is intended to soften the blow for educational publishers of the BBC's Digital Curriculum project, which will provide free national curriculum materials on the internet.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell was expected to give the controversial pound;150m project the go-ahead.

The Digital Learning Alliance, a group representing educational publishers, says the BBC's scheme would be unfair competition. It is taking the BBC and the Government to a judicial review.

While many stall-holders at BETT said they were hostile to the BBC scheme, others played down fears it would damage their businesses. Lewis Bronze, chief executive of educational multimedia company Espresso, said: "It is just going to be another player in a very vibrant market-place."

Highlights of BETT, expected to attract more than 20,000 visitors before it ends tomorrow, included the Becta ICT in Practice Awards.

Reception teacher Christine Terrey (pictured)was one of 26 winners of the awards, sponsored by The TES, and received prizes totalling pound;5,000 for her work at Chyngton school, Seaford, East Sussex.

Ms Terrey was praised for introducing four-year-olds to digital photography and word-processing, and for building a cave model with a computer in which pupils could see prehistoric wall-paintings.

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