Kids get the call-up to police chatrooms

25th May 2001 at 01:00
THE Scottish Executive is to step up its action to counteract threats to children following renewed concern about paedophiles and undesirable Internet chatrooms.

The "Click Thinking" group which drew up a document for teachers on how to protect their pupils from the worst effects of the Internet has been re-established, and children are to be invited to help.

"The best people to identify the dangers and help us towards solutions are the young people themselves," Stuart Robertson, head of new educational developments at the Scottish Executive, said. "So their first action is to get some young people to help give us a much better understanding of what is going on out there with mobile phones and so on."

The decision was taken last week at the first meeting of the Action Committee to Review Internet Safety (ASRIC), set up by the Education Minister. It is chaired by Richard Pietrasik, former chief executive of the Scottish Council for Educational Technology and now head of schools with BECTA, the equivalent body south of the border.

Mr Robertson said there had been considerable pressure to update the Click Thinking document which was issued only 18 months ago. "We take this very seriously," he said.

He revealed these latest moves as he gave a progress report on the National Grid for Learning at a special event this week to launch the second phase of innovation awards by Learning and Teaching Scotland in Glasgow. Teachers are being invted to apply now for pound;1,000-pound;5,000 grants out of a total pot of pound;50,000.

Successful applicants from the first phase reported on how they used their awards to develop new educational applications and training projects for teachers, pupils and parents, from pre-school to FE.

The latest figures for computers in Scottish schools and links to the Internet, due to be published soon, will show "huge increases" since 1999, Mr Robertson said. At that time ratios of pupils to computers were 28:1 in primary schools, 9:1 in secondary and 7:1 in special schools. Much of the improvement is due to authorities using their own intranets.

The computers for teachers scheme, which contributes towards the purchase of home computers, has so far assisted 10,000 teachers. Mr Robertson said the scheme would be launched for the third and probably last time towards the end of this year, aimed at assisting another 5,000 teachers.

He also urged teachers to watch out for the final round of New Opportunities Fund money for training, saying that halfway through the three-year scheme the take-up was 36 per cent. The deadline for registering is March next year.

One area where Mr Robertson was unable to report success was the much-criticised Scottish Virtual Teachers' Centre, the National Grid website to support schools which has been relaunched several times. He appealed for ideas to improve it.

A new 5-14 website is to be launched later this year.

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