It is expected that between eight and 12 local authorities will band together to develop a regional community grid for learning and apply for Standards Funds as well as Lottery money.
The success of bids will depend on plans to link the broadband infrastructure with primary schools, colleges, universities, libraries, museums and learning centres, and plans to develop or purchase content to maximise the educational value of the high-speed links.
Meanwhile, a report by the Electronic Mail in Schools Taskforce, has backed the shift towards high-speed networking. The group, which is run by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency for the DFEE, warned that the minimum connection standard for schools should be ISDN2 rather than the slower ISDN1 standard.
The taskforce has decided to allocate standard school domain names to all registered English schools. Nominet, the national registry for UK Internet domain names, is managing the project, which will be formally announced next month.
Domain names will follow the format of william-fletcher.oxon.sch.uk, with the second element being the local authority. Schools with established domain names could set up aliases to redirect users, the taskforce suggested.
As THErelease of the revised National Curriculum for information and communications technology - the new name for IT - nears, an Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) report has found standards in IT were too low in more than half of secondary schools, and that attainment in the subject did not meet expected levels.
The report, based on inspections in 1997-98, found that 53 per cent of schools did not comply with curriculum requirements in IT.
The National Association of Advisers for Computers in Education (NAACE)backed OFSTED's findings and said the quality of IT teaching had to improve. In its response to proposed curriculum changes, the association recommended:
* further development of model schemes of work;
* exemplification material be produced to help teachers understand orders and make accurate judgements about the level at which pupils are working;
* comprehensive support materials be produced for teachers on the National Grid for Learning;
* further in-service training to improve the quality of IT teaching.
Although NAACE welcomes Lottery-funded ICT training, it says the training is to improve the use of ICT in the teaching of all subjects, rather than in IT teaching.
Meanwhile, standards for ICT in primary education are falling, according to another recent report from OFSTED. See a full report on page 36.