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Primary schools splash out to catch up on technology spending

SPENDING on information and communication technology by schools is accelerating. Between 1998 and 1999 primaries more than doubled their ICT spending on teaching and learning, from the equivalent of pound;11 per pupil to pound;27 per pupil.

Primary spending on ICT is now rising faster than spending by secondaries, albeit from a lower base. In secondaries the rise was from pound;38 per pupil to pound;45. Primaries now spend around 60 per cent of the secondary average per pupil. This compares with only just over a third of the secondary expenditure per pupil in 1998.

Much of the increase in primary school spending will have been the result of funds channelled through the National Grid for Learning Standards fund. This route provided one-third of primary ICT spending in 1998, but only 10 per cent in secondaries, which funded 60 per cent of their ICT spending from delegate budgets. Less than half (46 per cent) of primary spending came from normal school budgets. In 1998 an average primary school had pound;2,000 of grant funding for ICT. Finding the money to replace any hardware bought with these funds may be an issue in the future for some primaries if specific grants are withdrawn.

Happily, the percentage of computers over five years old used for curriculum purposes has fallen from 45 per cent to 34 per cent in primary schools and from 34 per cent to 30 per cent in secondaries. However, these figures still suggest that replacing ageing equipment will still be an issue for many schools in the foreseeable future. Spending on ICT is likely to take a growing share of any extra funds schools receive over the next few years.

John Howson is a visiting professor of Oxford Brookes University. Email: int.edu@lineone.net

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