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Laptops in Easter nestegg

Headteachers are to be wired up individually under a pound;23 million Government plan to give them laptop computers.

The scheme is due to be announced just after Easter at an information technology event co-ordinated by Downing Street.

Government officials have refused to comment, but sources in the educational computer industry say they have been asked to bid to provide the machines, which will be paid for out of unspent funds from the last financial year.

The Prime Minister has pledged that by 2002, every school will be on the Internet and equipped to exploit the information revolution.

But a survey last week revealed that even in technology colleges fewer than one in five teachers is sufficiently familiar with computers to make full use of them in schools.

The survey which covered nearly 7,000 technology college and specialist school teachers, found that most were baffled by the Internet, e-mail, CD-Roms, computer graphics and desktop publishing.

In response to the survey, senior Government sources acknowledged the scale of the problem which they said was now being addressed after years of neglect under the previous government.

It has been hinted that more money will be made available to equip teachers with laptop computers. A National Council for Educational Technology project which gave 15,000 teachers laptops in 1996 and 1997 was judged a great success and expanded in January.

Eve Gillman, development director of the Technology Colleges Trust, said there are approximately 450,000 serving teachers whose training did not include IT. "This phenomenon has occurred within their teaching lifetime, and for the most part they have been expected to take it on board on the back of minimal training," she said. "Small wonder their confidence is low."

From September, for the first time, all initial teacher training will be required to cover IT. Some pound;230m from the National Lottery fund will be spent over the next three years training existing teachers.

pound;100m will develop the National Grid for Learning, including computer programmes and back-up material for schools.

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