The final year of the twentieth century or the first one of the next - depending on your mathematical persuasion - is to be filtered through the eyes of pupils and preserved on the Internet. SchoolNet 2000 is a celebration of the millennium and every school in the country has been invited to take part.
Tesco, the supermarket giant, and Xemplar, distributors of Apples, Acorns and PCs, are supplying the technology and providing educational consultancy and expertise. Ultralab at Anglia Polytechnic University, and Intuitive Media, an education consultancy, are responsible for the educational content of the project and the website. The whole venture will cost Pounds 6 million.
They have recruited 52 advisory teachers to ensure that colleagues in schools are trained to use the technology. They aim to promote the creative use of ICT so that more staff will become confident in using the National Grid for Learning.
Children of all ages and abilities will undertake four termly topics exploring their views of themselves, their environment, their community and their hopes.
Pupils will eventually have their own web pages and all the work will be fed to a giant website. It will be accessible from schools, homes, libraries with Internet access and Tesco stores where computer suites are being built: more than 380 branches will be equipped with two Apple Mac G3 computer systems, a scanner, a Casio QV100 digital camera, an eMate laptop computer and a colour ink-jet printer. This equipment will provide Internet facilities for schools without the technology. Parents can join in too.
Fiona Archer of Tesco feels that it will deepen established links with schools. "The planning is going better than expected. The work in the trial schools is going well. At the moment, over 7,000 schools have registered I many of the advisory teachers have been appointed and, all in all this, it looks as though it is going to be one of the UK's biggest and most exciting school projects ever."
Maggie Pollard is headteacher of Richmond Park Special School, in the Gorbals, Glasgow, where three teachers are working on the project. "The way that the work is presented is attractive and stimulating. The teachers are enjoying it and the children are motivated. It is encouraging to work on a project when you can sense that everyone is speaking the same language."
Another trial school is Hackney Free and Parochial School, where many of the children have family roots in the Caribbean, Turkey or Ireland. Roy Williamson, the school's head of ICT, said: "The kids are really motivated knowing that their work will end up in the (Greenwich Millennium) Dome as well as on the Internet I We have found it a good way of giving ICT a context and it relates well to what we have to do as far as the national curriculum is concerned. "
SchoolNet 2000 is a gigantic under-taking and, if it comes off, will create an exceptional picture of our country at a unique moment in time.
Jack Kenny Tesco 0845 6011423 www.intuitive.comtesco tesco.schoolnet2000. com