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The superhighway: the Government's questions to schools

The Department for Education last week posed a range of questions for educational establishments in its consultation paper, Superhighways for Education. It is anxious to ascertain what education wants from the new "broadband" cable networks, which can link UK schools with institutions around the world.

On the networks, pupils and teachers can use their computers to access research databases, art galleries and classrooms thousands of miles away, and receive text, graphics and full moving video.

Besides providing a full range of questions for education and industry, Superhighways for Learning contains valuable briefings and criteria needed by schools and other organisations wanting to bid for their own broadband pilot project.

The DFE wants schools and colleges to respond by July 7 to the questions relevant to their needs. Comments for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will be passed on.


* Do schools see advantage in connection to broadband networks for: a) curriculum purposes and if so what areas of the curriculum would benefit, what specific new applications made possible by broadband would teachers welcome, and what approaches should be adopted for different groups of children at various stages of their education?

b) in-service training and advice, for example through connection to LEA and other advisory centres and services?

c) special educational needs, either by improved curricular opportunities for pupils with SEN or through specific technologies for those with particular impairments such as communication or sensory disorders?

d) administrative purposes, for example for communication with Government agencies, LEAs or other schools?

* What sort of educational applications and services (for example video on demand, Integrated Learning Systems, interactive packages, and curriculum focused materials) would schools most like to see available on broadband networks?

* What are schools' particular concerns about broadband networks (for example unfriendly user-interfaces, on-line costs, and changes in teaching methodology)?

Professional development

* What scope is there for using broadband networks with initial teacher training students, and to provide in-service training, advice and support for serving teachers and other school staff? What particular applications and services could usefully be developed for these groups? How best could teachers' competencies in new networked technologies be developed?

Further education

* What applications and services should be developed on broadband networks to meet the needs of students in colleges of further education and other institutions serving the 16-plus age group?

* Are there particular features of broadband networks, for example video-conferencing and remote participation in lectures and workshops, which would lead to more efficient use of resources andor increased participation through home access by students?

Higher education

* Do educational bodies take the view that the universities' SuperJANET computers network should be expanded to include further education colleges and schools, and if so what would be the particular advantages: a) to higher education; and b) to FE and schools?

Adult education and education in the workplace

* What contribution could broadband networks make to the development of basic literacy and numeracy skills, and adult education more generally? How do colleges view the potential of broadband networks in aiding the development of lifelong learning?

All responses in writing to Andrew Partridge, Superhighways and Multimedia Unit, Room 4.44, Department for Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT. Or on the Internet at: report is available from HMSO, Pounds 4.95, 0 11 270898 6. It can also be downloaded free of charge from the DFE's Internet pages on the World Wide Web ( and from the HMSO pages (www.hmsoinfo. gov.ukhmsodocument superedsupered.html). The TES would like to hear from schools what they want from the superhighway. TES Resources, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.

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