The prototype of the National Grid for Learning, the on-line information network to which all schools will be connected in four years' time, was unveiled this week by Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett.
Speaking at this year's British Education and Training Technology show, held at London's Olympia exhibition halls, Mr Blunkett said that the Government was beginning a programme of technological investment that would "transform" the classroom.
The National Grid for Learning's embryonic website offers a "virtual teacher centre", which includes a "meeting room" for teachers to exchange ideas, a library of education documents and resources for profession al development.
The prototype for the Grid also offers a "standards and effectiveness database", which will provide schools with guidance on subjects such as target setting, summer schools and literacy initiatives.
Mr Blunkett stressed that the success of these initiatives depended on those working in the classroom. "We do not want any teacher to fear the information age, " he said. And, as such, he announced that all teachers would receive "intensive in-service training" to ensure they have the necessary "skills, confidence and ability" in information technology. There would be #163;230 million made available for this training from National Lottery funds.
Mr Blunkett also promised #163;5 million to fund a scheme aimed at encouraging greater computer-awareness in schools in which laptop computers would be loaned to senior staff so that they could gain confidence in using technology.
And he announced that the National Council for Educational Technology would be re-launched under the new name of British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, with responsibility for supporting the development of the National Grid for Learning.
The National Grid for Learning prototype website address is: www.ngfl.gov.uk.
* Every school in Britain will be using the Internet for teaching and learning by 2002 if UK NetYear achieves its aims.
The initiative, launched this week, involves Government, education authorities, local communities and a number of companies. Executive chairman David Wimpress said that major agreements are being negotiated with more than 50 organisations to provide financial support and resources.
Under one agreement, BBC Education and UK NetYear will work together to provide design, develop and deliver free training for teachers that will improve IT and Internet skills. And the Internet search company Excite will offer free e-mail addresses for life to Britain's 10 million teachers and school children this year.