Few schools bug-proofed

27th November 1998 at 00:00
ONLY a tiny number of schools have made arrangements to deal with the millennium bug, which could disrupt their fire and security systems and render computers and software obsolete.

A survey of 1,395 schools by the British Educational Suppliers Association indicates that almost all are aware of the problem, but only 2.5 per cent of primary and 4.3 per cent of secondary schools have allocated funds to it.

Forty-four per cent of primaries and 50 per cent of secondaries were using part of the ICT budget, leaving more than half of the primary schools and 45 per cent of the secondary schools surveyed with no funds to ensure they are bug-free. The British Educational Communication and Technology Agency last year urged schools to establish a specific bug-busting budget.

The bug problems centre on the inability of computers and other devices to recognise the date change on January 1, 2000. Many older computers will need to be updated and software should be checked, particularly programs used for management purposes.

However, it is just as important to ensure that the "embedded systems" that control devices including fire and security alarms, telephone switchboards and heating and lighting systems are Year 2000-compliant.

Keith Beaumont, head of capital finance for the Local Government Association, said ensuring embedded systems were bug-compliant posed a problem for schools because it was not always clear if they had a date function, meaning each one needs to be tested.

The Government has not given local authorities any specific funding to help deal with the problem, but the association expects the cost to be at leastPounds 150 million.

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