Half of computers are out of date

13th November 1998 at 00:00
THE Government has accepted the inadequacies of information technology provision in schools. "When you probe below the surface the picture is less rosy," the Education Minister said at a gathering of teachers.

But Helen Liddell told the "Tactics and Trends" conference in Glasgow organised by the Scottish Council for Educational Technology and supported by The TES Scotland that 72 per cent of secondaries and 39 per cent of primaries already have e-mail access.

The majority of schools also have access to CD-Rom or other multimedia technology.

But Mrs Liddell admitted that at least half of the computers are more than four years old and "some survive from the pioneering days of the early eighties". Teachers often complained about the lack of opportunities to acquire and enhance skills.

She also pointed to shortcomings on the way to the wired world. Many Internet connections had limited capacity, going to a single school computer.

Where there were a large number of computers, teachers spent valuable time keeping them running and support arrangements were haphazard. "I recognise that these problems exist in the way the use of ICT has developed in schools, " Mrs Liddell said.

The Government's commitment amounted to Pounds 62 million over three years to help develop the National Grid for Learning in schools, plus an additional Pounds 23 million of lottery money to train teachers and librarians in ICT.

Mrs Liddell announced that Moray Council and the computer firm ICL had just signed the first contract for a private finance project to deliver ICT to schools.

This would give Moray pupils the same opportunities as in West Lothian, where schools and community centres are networked through the Creatis programme. Having seen Creatis in action at Deans High, Livingston, Mrs Liddell said: "I began the day as an enthusiast for ICT, and ended up as an evangelist."

Leader, page 14 Gregor Steele, page 15 Help for FE, page 26

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