The have nots: Highfield School;Briefing;School Management;Computers

12th March 1999 at 00:00
Seeing Derbyshire at the bottom of National Association of Head Teachers league table for schools computer funding came as no surprise to Brian Gamble, ICT co-ordinator at Highfield school, Buxton.

He and his colleagues have worked hard with limited resources to modernise the school's technology infrastructure. Their 100 machines, mainly IBM-compatible PCs and ageing Archimedes RISC systems, lack the flexibility and power demanded by modern applications.

The equipment is used for standard educational tasks: desktop publishing, word processing, spreadsheets and database work. There is no network to link the school's different machines. Neither is there any access to the Internet.

"I first asked for a network five years ago," said Mr Gamble. "This is a fairly fundamental requirement if we are to achieve better usage from our equipment. Twenty-four of our computers are not networked. I am surrounded by piles of floppy disks, which need backing up."

Tight budgets do not just affect information technology. In December, the departmentwas asked to stop using the photocopier to save money. He added:

"For a network, the amount we are talking about is at least three times our annual quota - which is around pound;10,000."

Planning, though difficult in this environment, does get done and Mr Gamble feels that the school is making progress. He has drawn up a four-phase strategy. The initial aim is to have 150 networked machines, with a CD-Rom reference facility for the library and, perhaps, the science department. This would be supplemented by online resources.

"We are talking about developing resources across the curriculum and across the school."

But plans mean nothing without resources. Mr Gamble is doubtful whether the school will even meet the Government's target of connection to the Learning Grid by 2002.

"I don't think I will see the final two stages of the plan. In terms of senior management and the governors, there is a sincere wish to get there. But in terms of local funding, it's not going to happen for the moment."

"The money must come from Government, straight to schools. It's the only way it will work."

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