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Faster hookups to the Net

In theory computers are the great hope of Scottish schools. The practice is more complex. Neil Munro reports from a conference on ICT.

The Scottish Executive has announced a significant shift of gear in its ambition to give every school full computer coverage and Internet access by 2002.

Ministers have now accepted that their targets will not be achieved if schools have to rely on existing congested telephone lines and modem connections.

Peter Peacock, the Deputy Children and Education Minister, announced a major study into how broadband technology can best be introduced into schools, allowing the speedy and intensive use of information and communications technology the National Grid for Learning requires.

Mr Peacock revealed the plans at an ICT conference in Kilmarnock on Saturday. He told the TESS later that ministers would expect the study to cost the programme and make proposals for implementing it.

The Minister, a self-confessed "personal enthusiast" for ICT, said the Executive is determined to ensure quality access for schools for social groups in all corners of Scotland, to avoid a "two-tier" system.

"High quality education requires high quality ICT," he said.

Ministers have become increasingly concerned that their targets for increasing computer use would overwhelm the current system. The National Grid for Learning aims to have one modern computer for every five secondary or eight primary pupils by 2002. At present, the average is 131 computers per secondary school and 12 for each primary. The plans also include an e-mail address for every pupil and teacher.

The most recent figures show steady progress. Sixty per cent of primaries, 90 per cent of secondaries and 25 per cent of special schools are now linked to the Internet.

But the NGfL, with Government investment of pound;88 million backed by a similar sum from education authorities, intends to increase that coverage and install new machines - 54 per cent of computers in secondaries and 49 per cent in primaries are more than four years old.

6H News TESJseptember 24J 1999 Pupils have the enthusiasm and creativity to use the net, but they will need considerable investment in new connections and phone lines insight The Scottish Executive is publishing an unusual guide to safe use of the Internet next month. Click Thinking will warn teachers, parents and pupils about revealing credit card details and meeting someone contacted on the Net.

Parents will also be told how web browsers work - particularly the "history" feature which allows them to check on what their children have been accessing. The guide, uniquely, was drawn up by a multi-disciplinary team of HMI, teachers, police and social workers. It will be available through police stations as well as schools.

Grampian Enterprise and BP Amoco are linking up to create a pound;200,000 science and technology education project that will link teachers and pupils in north east schools to the oil and gas industry via the Internet. It is aimed at 10-17 year olds.

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