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Techno wizards impart wisdom

Their PE teachers can use laptops on the playing fields, mighty volcanoes are conjured in their classrooms and each pupil's records are available at the touch of a button.

Now the nation's most techno-savvy secondaries have been asked to help some of their fellow schools get to grips with the latest computer technology.

The Specialist Schools Trust, in partnership with the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), has set up a register of role-model schools to spread information and communications technology tips among 30 secondary and primary schools in each region. The initiative follows an Office for Standards in Education report, released in May, which found that the gap between the best and worst ICT provision in schools was "unacceptably wide".

The study said ICT was an essential learning tool and children needed to understand it if they were to "survive the constant pattern of change that is likely to mark their working lives".

It said helping teachers understand what the technology can do, what the pupils can do and how putting these two together can improve teaching and learning, was the most pressing issue.

Clive Rosewell is deputy head at Seven Kings high, Ilford, the "focus" school for the London region. He said: "Schools can come to us and we can say, 'We did it this way and these are the pitfalls to avoid'."

Mr Rosewell said the school used ICT across the curriculum, and believes it has helped to increase the proportion of pupils achieving five top-grade GCSEs from 50 per cent in 1997 to 84 per cent this year.

If pupils are studying volcanoes, footage from the world's latest eruption can be projected on to a screen in the classroom using a data projector.

Teachers download footage from the internet using laptops, plug them into the projector and the show can begin.

Pritesh Pankhania, 17, a Seven Kings pupil, said computers and projectors in classes made it easier to learn. And teachers could save notes on the school's network for any pupil to access later.

Anum Javed, 16, said: "ICT builds our confidence, it makes work more fun."

At Applemore college in Southampton, the south-central "focus" school, a wireless network allows access to the internet and pupil files. PE teachers can even access files from the playing fields.

Cleeve school in Cheltenham, the south-west focus school, advises others on how to fund laptops, interactive whiteboards and putting together a technical team.

Any school can use the ICT register website to find their local focus school and access a database pulling together all the expertise in the network. The website goes live on October 29.

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