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Just what is the going rate?

Ask a freelance or consultant to drive beyond the comfortable South East and they'll be able to tell you exactly what it will cost - and I don't just mean in credibility.

OK, bad joke. What I'm really talking about is mileage They can tell you what it actually costs them per mile - taking into account petrol, oil, general wear and tear, depreciation etc. The bad news for all of them is that papers like ours have already worked it out for ourselves and pay a flat fee.

So what has this got to do with information and communications technology (ICT)? Well, the freelances might talk about the "running costs" of their cars, but with ICT the talk is of "cost of ownership". And there are great similarities. As George Cole explains (page 12), marketing people talk about a "puppy dog sale". You buy something cute and feel happy, then it eats you out of house and home. Unless you plan properly, computers are far worse.

Thankfully, that message is starting to get across in education. The government, through the keeper of its National Grid for Learning, the British Educational Communications and Technology agency (BECTA), is encouraging schools and local authorities to get involved with managed services. Basically, a third party takes responsibility of the ICT and training to take unwanted pressures off teachers.

Only two BECTA-approved schemes have been passed so far, but there are many more in existence. Many schools, however, will get what they want by hook or by crook. Leasing is also very attractive, as i developing a good relationship with the business world which can pay huge dividends - as Netherhall school, Cambridge, shows (page 16). The variety of approaches is encouraging.

Nagging doubts are raised by the British Educational Suppliers Association's latest report. Budgets of primaries and secondaries show a considerable rise, but this is not mirrored by the rise with spending on resources. There's a feeling that, although this Government has dramatically increased funds for schools, there's still a serious shortfall.

They call it the beautiful game, and only a minority would disagree (you know who you are, so please don't write in). As Bill Shankly said, it's not a matter of life and death, it's far more important than that. Millions of people wrap up their hopes, fears and dreams in football (often to the point of relentlessly boring others) and children are no exception. Which is why the DFEE's Playing for Success scheme to open up football clubs for young people is bearing fruit. A visit to Leeds United (page 28) provides this. Boys and girls are getting role models, motivation, and support for learning and homework, with good ICT facilities too. And as far as the clubs are concerned, good ideas are good for business.

There are 40 Premiership and Division One clubs involved, with more to come. In fact arguably the greatest club of them all, Manchester United, opens its doors to education today. Unusually for such a game, this development appears to have only winners, and no losers.

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