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Primaries hampered by primitive computers

Chris Johnston reports on a survey that found information technology far from ship-shape in Bristol

The ability of English primary schools to deliver the national curriculum in information and communications technology (ICT) has been called into question by new research.

In a survey of 111 Bristol primary schools by the University of the West of England, 79 per cent said they lacked the hardware to teach the ICT national curriculum, 77 per cent lacked the software to do so and 63 per cent cited a lack of staff training.

ICT takes on a new significance from this month, as it is now one of only five subjects to be graded by Office for Standards in Education inspectors.

Researchers Gordon Guest and Siamak Alimi found that the primary schools had 1,202 computers between 20,004 children, a ratio of one computer per 17 pupils.

This compares favourably with the 1:19 ratio found by the Department for Education and Employment's 1997 survey.

However, many of these computers are old. There was just one fast, modern 486 or Pentium multimedia PC for every 56 pupils.

Bristol primary schools have 16 per cent more old computers than the DFEE's national average.

Only 114 computers in the schools were linked to the Internet - one third of the potential connectable number - but these were in only 14 per cent of schools.

The DFEE claims that 32 per cent of primary schools use the Internet. The Government intends them all to have access to the Internet by 2002. Only 14 primary schools said pupils used e-mail.

The research highlights the lack of ICT support in primaries. The overwhelming majority (97 per cent) have an IT co-ordinator, but, more often than not, the job is done by a full-time class teacher.

This contrasts with secondary schools, where 79 per cent have a technician to manage hardware.

More than half of primary schools ( 57 per cent ) said they had no budget, training or staff development policy for ICT.

The study was presented to the recent British Educational Research Association conference in Belfast.

"ICT resources in schools as an issue for the providers of initial teacher training and continuous professional development" by Gordon Guest and Siamak Alimi, faculty of education, University of the West of England.Tel: 0117 974 1251 ext 4182

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