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Crisis over computer shortages

Two education authorities admitted this week that they may be losing the battle to keep schools abreast of modern computer systems.

Perth and Kinross says a minimum of Pounds 1 million over three years is needed for schools to develop an information technology programme. Much equipment is obsolete and there is only Pounds 240,000 in this year's budget.

North Lanarkshire councillors were told: "The number of teachers who have volunteered for IT training in recent years continues to mask large skill gaps and an uneven distribution of training. It is worth remembering that, even if 75 per cent of our primary teachers become trained and skilled in using computers in the classroom, it is still possible that an unlucky pupil could spend half of his or her time in school with virtually no access to computers. "

A report by Perth and Kinross states: "There are difficulties in providing the current curriculum with the resources presently within schools. The level of funding required to bring schools to a basic minimum level of computer provision is well in excess of that which the education department envisages will be available for the foreseeable future."

North Lanarkshire has agreed to make a start by investing Pounds 121,000 in extra teaching and technician support for schools. Perth and Kinross has chosen to give priority to business studies and computing departments in secondary schools. But it adds that the needs of the 5-14 programme can only be sustained "in the short term" with existing hardware. "The current reliance on BBC computers, which are no longer produced and for which parts are scarce, cannot be sustained," the council states.

A Scottish Parent Teacher Council survey of computers in secondary schools last year revealed that only 16 per cent were less than two years old. North Lanarkshire blames the absence of a national strategy which has resulted in an uneven distribution of hardware and growing obsolescence.

The Government has pledged Pounds 116 million over five years but this represents borrowing consent for capital investment which has to be shared with expenditure on school buildings (page four).

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