No extra IT cash north of border

10th October 1997 at 01:00
The Scottish Office says no additional money will be spent north of the border despite this week's announcement by the Prime Minister of an extra Pounds 100 million for information technology in schools. The funding gap emerged as Glasgow revealed it requires substantial investment if schools are to join the Government's drive along the information superhighway.

Reports emanating from Downing Street appeared to suggest Scotland would receive a proportionate share, roughly Pounds 10 million, to link all schools to the Internet in preparation for next September's launch of the National Grid for Learning.

But the Scottish Office says it does not know how much will be spent in Scotland. It has already allocated Pounds 115.7 million over the next five years, through the education authorities, and a spokesman confirmed this is for capital expenditure on improving school buildings as well as modernising IT. It was up to councils how this was distributed, the spokesman added, and the computing element was not being earmarked.

An audit of Glasgow schools has revealed just how much ground has to be made up. The city will have to invest a minimum of Pounds 24.5 million over the next six years to bring computer hardware and software up to date. This reinforces messages last month from North Lanarkshire and Perth and Kinross that schools are at risk of being left behind in the IT revolution.

Glasgow's survey has unveiled a massive re-equipment challenge. Only 2, 250 of the 7,820 computers in primary, secondary and special schools qualified as "modern" last year in that they can run the full range of multi-media and communications activity.

The council believes it is essential to move to one modern computer per primary and special school classroom, for each secondary teaching area and for every 18 pre-five pupils, which is 7,288 more than at present. It is also proposing a laptop for every 10 pupils in primaries and secondaries and one for every special school pupil. A laptop for all pupils would cost Pounds 41 million for the equipment alone.

The city's education committee learnt last week that only one in five teachers is a "confident, personal user of computers". The authority says it needs to spend more than Pounds 10 million in the next six years on "a significant programme" of staff development. "Spearhead teachers" would be released from the classroom to develop IT in the classroom. It wants experienced teachers to be "buddies" for 500 colleagues each year.

The council estimates it will have to spend another Pounds 4 million by 2003 to improve technology education. The cash would go on reducing class sizes to 20, the limit for practical subjects, improving technician support and providing materials.

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