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Girls' computer clubs fight off 'nerd' image

Girls-only computer clubs will be piloted in schools in the south east in a bid to change the image of IT and get more female pupils to consider it as a career option.

The initiative, run by the e-skills National Training Organisation and the South East England Development Agency, will target 11 to 13-year-olds and offer a fun way to learn professional skills.

"It is essential to change the negative stereotyping of the IT profession and to help redress the gender balance in the industry," said Karen Price, chief executive of e-skills NTO.

Research has found that girls turn off IT between 11 and 14 because they think it's only for nerds. Anne Cantelo, the project director, said girls were also bored by the focus on applications such as spreadsheets in the IT curriculum.

Macromedia has donated its media authoring software Flash to all the clubs, which Pat Brogan, the firm's education vice-president, said was fun to use but would also give the girls valuable technical experience.

The clubs will be rolled out in 2003 following a pilot phase this year and could go nationwide.

Launching the clubs at a recent conference on women in IT, trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt said the clubs were a "really exciting addition" to the Government's push to drive IT in schools.

Chris Johnston e-skills NTO: www.e-skillsnto.org.uk

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