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Council looks at leasing classroom PCs

UP TO 2,000 extra computers, costing nearly pound;1.5 million, will be needed in Renfrewshire to meet targets for information technology in schools. Leasing rather than buying may be a more realistic option, advisers recommend.

The council has already spent pound;860,000 on new computers from the first Scottish Office handout. Primaries received 204 and 520 went to secondaries but many more need replacing.

Renfrewshire estimates the ratio of modern computers to pupils is 34:1 in primary and 12:1 in secondary but ministers want to cut that to 8:1 and 5:1 within four years. The Prime Minister on a recent visit to Scotland pledged to halve the primary target from 15:1.

The number of outdated computers in Renfrewshire primaries has fallen from 47 per cent to 30 per cent and from 64 per cent to 42 per cent in secondaries. Advisers say maintaining the replacement rate is a key issue.

Officials also remain cautious about recycled computers. "Much of the stock offered to schools is ageing and would not be easily integrated into existing network plans. There are issues concerning health and safety, spare part availability and maintenance and, of course, technician time in making them ready for use in schools," they state.

The council is keen to press ahead with training teachers after surveys suggested only a fifth were comfortable using the latest technologies for classroom teaching.

Advisers call for "imaginative and expansive" development programmes that involve more teachers. A computer centre at Merksworth High in Paisley already runs such courses but is underused.

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