School pioneer to head SCET

14th May 1999 at 01:00
TAKING UP the helm at the Scottish Council for Educational Technology seems part of a natural progression for Richard Pietrasik.

Mr Pietrasik succeeds Nigel Paine as chief executive at the end of June, having been seconded from his day job as head of Deans Community High in Livingston to be one of the pioneers on the educational superhighway.

"It's a very exciting prospect," Mr Pietrasik said. It will certainly be short-lived, as the SCET is set to merge with the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum - assuming the Scottish Parliament endorses ministerial plans. But doubtless he has been given some guarantee for the future.

Having run the Creatis project in West Lothian - Creating the Information Society - he says he will bring the same perspective to his new job. "I have always made the point that IT in education is about education. I am only too well aware of the cynicism in many schools and among many teachers about what seems like vast sums of money being spent in this direction," he said.

The teacher training programme to bring schools into the National Grid for Learning, funded with more than pound;20 million of lottery money, will have to be "cleverly handled", SCET's new overlord says.

"It's early days and the training programme has three years to run," he says. "But we have to keep in mind that schools have a lot of other initiatives to contend with. In that respect, I believe it is useful that I come directly from a school rather than a technical background since I am used to dealing with teachers and pupils ."

Mr Pietrasik, aged 54, may be from a school background but he is clearly a safe pair of technological hands. The son of a Polish airman who served in the RAF, he worked as a computer programmer and statistician before moving into maths teaching. A spell in Hull schools was followed by two years at the University of Mozambique where he trained maths teachers.

He spent the next 11 yearsin London first as a head of maths then a deputy head. He took over as head of Deans Community High in 1991.

Mr Pietrasik was therefore an obvious choice to head Creatis when West Lothian decided to change gear and take to the information superhighway. The project generated enough confidence in official circles to prise pound;3 million from the Scottish Office.

Creatis will bring between 3,000 and 4,000 computers into a wide-area network. This is a bigger IT initiative than councils are used to, Mr Pietrasik says, and he describes the collaboration with the council's corporate IT service as "interesting".

He already had experience in a similar ground-breaking project, bringing IT to school administration in the London borough of Camden, which clearly commended him to his new bosses.

He first became involved with SCET through yet another pioneering effort when Deans Community High (with Northfield Academy in Aberdeen) began a project to drive up maths and English standards using an interactive computer package, which was judged a major breakthrough.

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