Unleash the power

21st January 2000 at 00:00
Learning and technology minister Michael Wills applauds The TES

laptops for teachers campaign.

I AM pleased that The TES has called for computers to be more widely available for teachers.

I also believe that for years the power of new technology in education has been underestimated. We must make the best use of this wonderful new resource in our schools, if our society is to grasp the opportunities offered by the Internet and other new technologies.

This is why the Government is spending pound;1.7 billion in the next three years, to ensure everyone is able to take up information revolution opportunities.

We are making good progress and are ahead of most Western countries in providing computers in schools. We have already nearly quadrupled the number of primary schools hooked up to the Internet since 1997.

By 2002 every school in the country will be linked to the Internet, more than 700 information technology learning centres will be set up to widen access to these technologies, and 100,000 recycled computers will be provided to help low-income families in the inner cities. But we still need to do more.

In schools, teachers will be the key to success. The TES (January 7) rightly pointed out that teachers are bright and adaptable but need more help to keep up to date with these fast-moving technologies.

We have already launched a number of initiatives to help them. Our scheme for new heads offers a pound;3 million package which will provide laptop computers for all 1,200 new headteachers appointed during 1999. The pound;3m will cover the cost of buying the computers and setting up the network. The laptops will enable heads to share best practice, improve training and contribute to the development of the virtual arm of the new leadership college for heads.

This is an important part of the leadership college, a project which has the potential to transform leadership in our schools. It will promote excelence and high achievement, ensuring for the first time that headteachers and school leaders have the professional support they deserve.

Last week I announced the details of the Computers for Teachers scheme. This offers 50 per cent off the cost of a new computer - with up to pound;500 cash back. At least 50,000 teachers will benefit from the scheme. The figure may even be higher, depending on the cost of the computers which teachers choose to buy.

The scheme links new computers direct to the National Grid for Learning, providing quick access to the Department for Education and Employment's site which offers schemes of work and other help for teachers.

We have struck an excellent deal for teachers, which will provide them with choice and flexibility. I hope teachers will see the scheme as a chance to buy the computer they want at a discount. Teachers will feel more at home with new technology if their computer fits their own individual needs.

This is why we are offering desktops and laptops and an impressive range of leading

manufacturers. Models include top-of-the-range machines.

We now need to monitor carefully the take-up of the scheme and how teachers respond to it.

It would be wrong to allocate scarce resources to forcing teachers to acquire technology with which they felt uncomfortable and so did not use. We want to encourage teachers to seize the opportunities offered by these technologies.

The TES is to be applauded for its commitment to the same objective.

This Government is committed to using IT to enrich the learning experience and providing teachers with all the tools to help them do so. This agenda is still a new one and still developing rapidly. We shall stay with it and do whatever is necessary to implement it.

Michael Wills is minister for technology and learning Information revolution: the Government says it is intent on using technology to enrich learning

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