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Gates boots up UK schools laptop drive

A scheme to help schools provide a laptop for every student was ratched up a notch in London last month by Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft.

With accounting firm Arthur Andersen, the company has devised guidelines to help schools or local education authorities set up their own "e-learning" foundations. These charitable trusts would receive donations from companies and parents to help buy VAT-free Windows laptops for pupils whose parents could not afford one themselves. A key feature is covenants, and Professor Tim Brighouse, Birmingham's chief education officer, pledged to donate 2 per cent of his salary (about pound;2,000) and called for others to do likewise.

The push is to get more schools to join Microsoft's Anywhere Anytime Learning programme, which is an attempt to ensure that all pupils and teachers have their own computers so schools can change teaching and learning.

Mark East, Microsoft's UK education general manager, said he was confident that its funding models could see every British school student wth a laptop in five years. A national foundation is also being considered to help schools in poor areas. Microsoft has promised to donate 7 per cent of its revenue from AAL to the foundation, but has refused to discount software for the scheme which could be a major outlet for Microsoft products.

The scheme will also encourage parents to buy portable computers, rather than desktop models, so that students can take them to school during the day.

Twenty-eight British schools participated in an AAL pilot in 1998 and more than 150 have signed up for the programme. Michael Wills, the learning and technology minister, said AAL showed what could be achieved when the public and private sectors, parents and schools worked together.

Mr Gates also lent his support to the TES campaign to give every teacher a laptop, saying they "absolutely" needed them. But he also pointed out that there was no point giving them to teachers who had no use for them.

Anywhere Anytime Learningwww.microsoft.comukeducationaal

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