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Schools warned to check for Bug;News;News amp; Opinion

SCHOOLS starved of technology may think themselves an unlikely habitat for the Millennium Bug.

If so, they are about to get a shock - with an official warning that they too risk failing phones and vanishing data when the New Year celebrations begin. A government-backed plan will be sent to every school in England this month, urging them to take precautions.

The guidance was compiled by BECTA, the British Educational and Communications Technology Agency, at the request of the Department for Education and Employment. It outlines the steps to be taken to reduce disruption.

As well as reminding schools to copy computer files, the guidance aims to make staff think about how they'd cope if their PCs failed and they had to return )to the world of the card index.

It includes a booklet for heads called Surviving the Millennium and sheets of advice for governors.

"We don't want a school that happens to have a five or six-year-old computer and hasn't checked it to find they've lost hours of work," said BECTA's David Hassell. "We want them to make sure they've taken sensible precautions."

Checks after January 1 to ensure all systems such as heating and alarms are working properly before pupils return in the New Year are also recommended.

Both state and independent schools will be sent a copy, while those in Scotland will get a similar pack prepared by the Scottish Executive education department.

BECTA's website includes links to millennium bug information posted by education suppliers.

The Government this week launched a pound;9.4 million advertising campaign intended to dispel myths about the Millennium Bug. Margaret Beckett, the minister responsible for tackling the Y2K problem, said Britain was as well prepared as any country in the world. A 24-page booklet What everyone should know about the Millennium Bug will be sent to every home as part of the campaign.

School Millennium Action Pack: www.becta.org.uky2khome.html

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