9th February 1996 at 00:00
Oftel, the communications watchdog which pledged to keep our telephone bills down, claims now to have come up with an "affordable" way for schools to get on to the Internet and the education superhighway. It has dreamed up a "universal service" concept, but details are still very sketchy, including the crucial "who is going to pay for it?" When pressed, Oftel says that it is likely to be the network providers, firms such as BT and Mercury, but in the end that means you and me, because under such a scheme these firms will almost certainly levy the money from the subscribers.

Oftel is currently conducting a consultation and will run a seminar at the Barbican Conference Centre on February 23. The consultation will then continue with more detailed proposals some time after Easter, in the hope that the scheme will be up and running by 1997. Maybe by then Tony Blair will have done his deal with BT to connect all schools, public libraries and hospitals to the Internet.

Seminar details from Andrea Konrath, Oftel, 50 Ludgate Hill, London EC4M 7JJ. Tel: 0171 634 8858.

The new Gene Web site on the Internet has enlisted the help of a spider to explain the terms used in genetic research. Aimed at secondary schools, this site will provide information about genetics and the ethical and social aspects of new developments. Topics covered include genetic engineering, gene therapy, plant genetics and inheritance. Gene Web is funded by the National Council for Educational Technology and medical organisations including the Medical Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Nuffield Foudation, the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

Gene Web's URL (unique resource locator, or address, to you or me) is More information from: Clifton College, 01275 871754; Medical Research Council, 0171 637 6011; BBSRC, 01793 413302.

Not to be outdone by a mere spider, Cupid - alias AST Computer - has been surfing the Internet to find the best Valentine's Day Web sites. The selection includes an invitation to design a cybercard for free (at http:www.maxonline.comcgi-wincard32.exe). Cyrano's Server (http:www.nando.nettoyscyrano.html) offers the "perfect letter for your beloved" and the opportunity to dump same beloved electronically with a message from one contributor saying, "Wifeypoo, roses are red, violets are blue, please sign the papers, cause buddy we're through." Charming.

Details of other Valentine Web sites, including last year's electronic Valentines are available from AST Europe Limited, tel 0181 587 3000 (e-mail allan

Home School Links with IT", a new pack for parents and teachers, is full of ideas on how schools and parents can use information technology effectively. It cites case studies on successful homeschool relationships and gives tips on how parents can support and encourage homework.

It costs Pounds 5 and is published by Learning for Life with Technology (LIFT), PO box 1577, London W7 3ZT. Tel 0181 248 4666.

Oops! When Bytes published the Education Design Awards announced at the BETT 96 technology show in January there was an omission. The IT Learning Exchange, which runs an IT support services for schools and other educational institutions, won a special silver award for services to education.

The IT Learning Exchange is at the School of Teaching Studies, University of North London, 166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB (e-mail at itle@rmplc.

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