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UK loses ground in computer challenge;News;News amp; Opinion

MORE THAN a million computers will be in British state schools by next spring, but this is well short of the total needed, says a major new technology survey.

Schools told the the British Educational Suppliers Association that they should have at least 10 more computers each if ICT education is going to be effective.

The BESA's annual survey of information and communications technology reveals that there were 904,000 computers in schools in April, with the figure expected to jump by almost 100,000 in the next six months. Schools want 242,000 more machines.

Meanwhile, a startling disparity between the United States and Britain in spending per pupil on computer equipment and software, has been revealed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In 1997-98, the US spent $109 (pound;67) per student, while Britain managed just $31.7 (pound;20) rising to $38.6 (pound;24) in 1998-99, according to a new OECD report. American computer-related school spending now exceeds spending on print materials - $103 (pound;64) in 1997-8.

Eileen Devonshire, deputy chief executive of BESA, said their survey shows that the foundations for the National Grid for Learning are in place. Eighty per cent of schools will be connected to the Internet by April.

However, most need more software and training. Three-quarters of schools require more maths or numeracy software with 58 per cent needing more English or literacy software to deliver parts of the national curriculum.

Only 45 per cent of teachers are believed to be confident and competent users of technology, according to ICT co-ordinators.

Ms Devonshire said this highlighted the pressure on training organisations, particularly those delivering the Lottery-funded ICT teacher training, to provide effective and relevant instruction.

The survey found teachers in 68 per cent of primary schools need extensive training in using the Internet and e-mail. In the secondary sector 70 per cent of schools said teachers needed much more help in using ICT in the curriculum.

Ms Devonshire said it was unclear whether there was enough funding to provide teachers with all the training they needed.

Teachers seem more likely to use the Internet at home than at school. An estimated 80,000 surf the web from their own PCs. Only 15 per cent of schools provide this facility in the staffroom.

A summary of the OECD Education Policy Analysis 1999 can be found at www.oecd.orgnews_and_events

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