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Grid 'laid the foundations'

Young people need "far deeper and more sophisticated skills" to survive in the information age than merely knowing how to work a computer.

A final report on the National Grid for Learning, which shut down in April after eight years in operation, concludes that it did its job in bringing new technologies into the classroom. But the view is that it has been overtaken by fast-changing developments.

A Scottish Executive report believes the grid "laid strong foundations" for new ways of using new technologies to support learning and teaching. "There is much to celebrate in the improvements in the national ICT infrastructure and in the improved ICT access and facilities across schools and colleges,"

the report states.

In recent years, ministers have ploughed in around pound;20 million a year to maintain the pace of change as schools continue to update and expand equipment. But, as ever, developments nationally are uneven.

As teachers regularly complain, computer systems often go down when they most want them to work and lack of technical support at classroom level can undermine the best intentions.

The executive's analysts call for more effective integration of ICT into all future aspects of education which will require better planning and technical back-up. Those who provide services need to have a better understanding of what teachers and pupils need, the report says.

With ICT budgets always likely to be under pressure, the executive believes moves to wireless networking should increase the flexibility teachers want.

Evidence from inspections in primary show that the majority of schools have ICT programmes in place, although progress is patchy as pupils move through primary. More computers are based in individual classrooms and there is increasing use of computer suites, data projectors, digital cameras, scanners and whiteboards.

Many pupils are said to be able to handle emails and present packages but "it is a cause for concern" that few had acquired skills in information literacy. Primary teachers had yet to think through ICT across the curriculum.

In secondary, HMIE says the majority of schools were beginning to use ICT across learning and teaching with some excellent individual examples. But there was more limited use of data projectors and whiteboards.

Access to ICT in secondaries was "rarely flexible enough to suit the everyday needs of the majority of teachers and pupils". Most schools offered pupils the chance to develop their ICT skills in business education, computing, technical education, art and music. Use of the intranet and internet was increasing.

The executive reports good progress in developing a Scottish Schools Digital Network and notes rapidly increasing hits on Learning and Teaching Scotland websites. In 2003, there were 923,000 visits - against nearly 3 million in 2005.

The National Grid for Learning, Scotland, Progress Report 4. Available on www.tes.co.ukscotland.

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