Location is hitting ICT where it hurts

Besa survey shows computer labs are still holding back ICT, writes Chris Johnston

British schools now have more technology than ever before, but action needs to be taken to ensure the benefit it has brought continues to be enjoyed.

That is the warning given by Ray Barker, director of the British Education Suppliers Association (Besa), in response to the organisation's annual survey of technology in state schools.

In line with the findings of the previous seven surveys, the amount of technology in schools has continued to escalate, with 1.6 million desktop and 533,000 laptop computers. The average number of desktops and laptops is 29.2 and 12.6 in primaries, and 198.3 and 53.7 in secondaries.

Barker says the way technology is used in schools has become the crucial issue as the number of computers well exceeds the 2 million mark. The survey, of 640 primary and 428 secondary schools, found that just 9 per cent of secondary ICT co-ordinators said teachers could get their class into computer labs when they wanted. In primary schools, the figure is 28 per cent.

More than 50 per cent of secondary teachers and 43 per cent of primary teachers say that lack of access to classroom computers hinders the use of technology. Similarly, access to interactive whiteboards and projectors was a concern for half the secondary teachers surveyed and 33 per cent in primaries.

"There is a great desire among teachers to use ICT, but there are factors stopping them from doing so all the time," Barker says. "Many always felt that putting most computers in labs would come back to haunt us, so maybe it's time to rethink where they are located in schools and think more about how they are used."

E-learning strategies are taking hold in many schools, with around half of primaries and two-thirds of secondaries expected to have one in place by the end of 2005. While 20 per cent of teachers are making regular use of learning management systems, half of the schools surveyed said few or no teachers use such a system.

Ensuring "joined-up thinking" should now be the Government's priority, Barker says, because ICT provision and use remains uneven between schools.

E-learning strategies will be crucial if the Government's desire to introduce pupil e-portfolios is to be achieved.

Meanwhile, the e-Learning Credits scheme appears to have been a success, with schools spending pound;101.6 million - an average of pound;3,510 per primary and pound;10,200 per secondary. More than half of schools would like to extend the scheme's scope to include hardware such as interactive whiteboards.

For a full summary of the survey, see www.besa.org.uk

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