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Online, thanks to grant

Special grants for small and rural schools have been used to set up out-of-hours learning centres in Cardiff and provide broadband connection to the internet in Torfaen. Some of the pound;3.5 million handed out by the Welsh Assembly government has also gone on collaborations between small schools and extending community use of school buildings.

But the bulk of the cash - pound;1.9m - has gone on cutting administrative burdens on teachers.

The figures were revealed by Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, at a meeting this week of the Assembly's education committee. She said: "The purpose of the grant was to support the development of innovative ways of delivering education, particularly in rural areas.

"It was also meant to facilitate the community use of school buildings and reduce the administrative burden, particularly in smaller schools where heads have a bigger teaching commitment.

"Although more emphasis was placed on administrative burdens, the number of innovative schemes was broadly the same as the previous year."

The grant was introduced two years ago after research showed that relatively large numbers of small schools had disproportionately high per-pupil costs and school buildings in poor condition with inadequate facilities.

Fourteen local education authorities used almost pound;1.9m of special grant cash for administrative support, including eight which used the entire amount for that purpose. They included Conwy and Wrexham in the north and Bridgend and Rhondda Cynon Taff in the south.

Much of the administrative support cash was allocated to schools where the head had a significant teaching commitment. In 2004-5, when another pound;3.5m will be available, schools with teaching heads will be the only ones eligible for such help.

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