The cash being pumped into education to kickstart the National Grid for Learning is the most significant amount of money for computers in schools for a long time.
Those that have a development plan for ICT might well already have qualified for funding. As detailed on the opposite page, schools in some authorities have received as much as pound;35,000 to spend on hardware. Most schools should by now have had a large sum. But it all depends on your local education authority.
Some councils are giving every school a slice of the cake for the four years of the programme. Others are concentrating on groups of schools within their boundaries so some might not have received any significant help yet.
It seems safe to assume your school will be getting more money: pound;102 million was allocated for this current financial year; there is pound;105m next year and pound;450m to be shared out in 2000-2002.
This is the new expression for technical support which a lot of schools are buying in from specialist companies. It's cheaper to pay for professionals to fix and maintain your schools' computer system than it is to employ someone who will most likely develop expertise then leave for a more lucrative job in industry. Plus you have the advantage of a range of experts to help you rather than relying on one person's ideas and experience.
It is not as expensive as you might fear: Potter's Green school in Coventry pays pound;1,500 per year to have its system supported - with Internet connection included .
If you are worried about getting good value, BECTA, the Government's school computing advisory body, is going to publish a list of approved companies providing managed services in October.
BECTA Tel: 01203 416994
GOVERNOR LOGGED ON
Schools should appoint a governor to be responsible for monitoring how technology develops. The topic should be on the agenda at every meeting if there is to be real progress towards the National Grid for Learning.
This is just one of the recommendations contained in a practical booklet for schools which concentrates on the management aspects of technology. Heading for the Superhighway covers such familiar management areas as planning and target setting, capital investment and maintenance and monitoring and assessment. Free copies are available from Carl Carter at BT which funded the research and produced the booklet. Tel: 0171 356 6597 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
One-third of the total cost of your schools' computer system should be for training, according to Phil Strange of the Scottish Council for Education Technology. This is particularly true for those buying small numbers of computers who do not get the support and training that comes with larger purchases.
"When you spend pound;1,000 on a brand new computer," says Mr Strange, "setting aside a third of that on a day's training doesn't seem very much."
"Trained staff need to have the time to show their colleagues what to do. The 'cascade' method of training never works if your staff don't have time and appropriatecover to do it."
In next week's School Management Update: How to get the best deal on ICT training