"No PCs unless you have special needs" Excuse me, Mr Blair

14th March 2003 at 00:00
While Tony Blair is preaching about the future of Britain's education system being in computers, doesn't he think about enforcing their use in the present? After all the future has to start somewhere.

Michael, my nine-year-old neighbour, is obviously bright, but his spelling and handwriting are constantly letting him down and causing his teachers to under-estimate his abilities. At home he is unable to do his homework on computer, which is the obvious solution, because his teachers insist he practises his handwriting. Surely typing will be more important than handwriting in the future, when the only handwritten things will be rough notes?

I suffer from mild dyspraxia and while my spelling and grammar are fine, it makes handwriting a nightmare (since we often have to copy mindlessly pages out of text books or from the board, a waste of time, during which we learn little but end up with aching wrists). I am able to use a computer for school, after months of applying to education psychologists, special needs teachers and hospital therapists. This has not only increased the volume of work I can do, but has improved my school life. I can now touch-type faster than I can write, something I value more highly than the best copperplate writing.

When a boy in one of my classes half-jokingly asked a teacher if he could use his computer in school, the reply was simply, "Not unless you have special needs."

ICT, though supposedly a major curriculum subject, is disastrously under-taught in my school, as I understand is the case in many schools, and (unless you are doing GCSE IT) the few IT lessons are the only time children can use computers in school for any length of time. It is a rare treat when we are able to use them in other subjects, something which we should be used to if we are to become fluent users of current technology.

So if technology really is the future of education, when does the future begin? At a later date perhaps, just that bit too late for Michael and the current generation of school children? Or perhaps it'll be in a distant, dreamy time when the Neanderthal race of computer-illiterate, technophobic teachers have died out and the minority of well-trained, computer literate teachers have taken over.

Kit Flemons, aged 15, Liverpool

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