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Schools could be new target for subsidies

Targeting subsidies at schools rather than teachers could be one option for the next phase of the Computers for Teachers scheme. The Department for Education and Employment is consulting with organisations including teacher unions and the computer advisers' association NAACE on the best way of distributing limited funds.

The move follows learning and technology minister Michael Wills' speech at last month's NAACE conference. While recognising the disappointment of teachers who were not eligible for phase two of the scheme, which closed on February 25, he said it could not all be done at once. A way had to be found of allocating a relatively small sum of money without raising expectations that could not be met, according to the minister.

However, NAACE is not keen on the idea of allocating funds directly to schools, as the association believes giving subsidies directly to teachers builds professional esteem and inreases ICT confidence and competence.

The DFEE has also sought suggestions for improving the scheme's administration and organisation, which it admits was poor in the first phase.

Mr Wills is known to be battling the Treasury for more money for computers for teachers and DFEE sources say he is confident of winning the fight. This week's budget may have revealed whether he has been successful.

Meanwhile, the Government is expected to delay the release of a study into the future development and financing of the National Grid for Learning until after the election.

The report, carried out by bankers NM Rothschild, will examine ways of making the "best use" of the private sector to finance the high-quality content and fast Net access that schools need.

It is expected to say that the NGFL strategy is not radical enough and will stress the importance of giving schools fast Internet connections.

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