White board pledge scotched

13th August 2004 at 01:00
Every classroom wil get an interactive whiteboard, Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, said this week - but later admitted that this was just an aspiration.

Mr Clarke announced that every secondary classroom would be fitted with the boards, which cost about pound;1,500 each and would need to be linked to computers.

He said the high-tech boards would be introduced as part of the Government's pound;15 billion Building Schools for the Future programme, which aims to rebuild or refurbish all secondary schools by 2015.

"Every school of the future will have an interactive whiteboard in every classroom," he said. "Teachers will have an interactive replacement for black boards which allow them to work with pupils to surf the net, download information and develop presentations."

Stephen Twigg, education junior minister, made the same pledge about whiteboards in a Labour party speech in June.

But the Department for Education and Skills later said the idea of fitting all secondary classrooms with the technology was simply an aspiration.

A spokeswoman said: "The department does not have a policy of providing an electronic whiteboard in every classroom. No one solution will meet all classroom needs."

It would cost at least pound;370 million to fit interactive whiteboards in all classrooms.

The Government is providing pound;50 million to help more schools buy the whiteboards over the next two years and schools have been quick to purchase them using their own funds.

Recent figures suggest that 92 per cent of secondary schools and 63 per cent of primaries have the boards.

The average number of boards in secondary schools rose to 7.5 last year and almost doubled to two in primaries. Partnership for Schools, the Government agency set up to manage the Building Schools for the Future programme, has been considering whether teachers should be issued a "Teacher's Toolkit".

This would consist of a laptop or tablet PC and an interactive whiteboard or digital projector.

Some software companies have been sceptical about ministers' enthusiasm for the whiteboards, noting that there is little research to show they improve results.

Stephen Uden, education relations manager for Microsoft UK, said: "Many schools have a sense that they are very nice to look at and very impressive to parents. But I think the Government should be a little more circumspect before investing so heavily."

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency said early evidence suggested they increased pupil motivation and saved teachers time.

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