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Waiting for CD-Roms that just never arrive

When I read reports of the Education Secretary Gillian Shephard's speech at the BETT educational technology show after Christmas, I thought that a late Christmas present, in the shapeof a CD-Rom system, was on its way to my school. But of course, I should have known better, it was yet another con!

I imagine that every parent who read or heard the reports of Mrs Shephard's speech, announcing Pounds 3.3 million, thought that their child's school would be receiving a super-duper system, embracing 21st-century technology. But the reality is very different. My own authority, Bolton, received a letter dated February 17 from the National Council for Educational Technology on January 18. Yes, the dates are correct, but it gets worse. It asked the LEA to nominate an officer by January 17 who would then nominate schools by January 30. These CD-Roms do have some power, don't they? The letter announced an allocation of Pounds 17,278, which would appear to be enough for NCET to provide eight or 10 schools out of 107 in Bolton with the equipment. I am assured by my LEA officer that if we had received the cash, we would have been able to supply two or three more schools but this is impossible under the scheme. We have to work through NCET, which administered last year's scheme, which provided 10 other Bolton schools with this equipment.

At this rate it will take 11 years to provide all the schools in Bolton with the equipment, and by the final year, 2006, CD-Roms will probably be museum pieces so I think we'll go back to pencil and paper, and face the wrath of the Office for Standards in Education about our IT equipment. Pity, though - we had prepared the space for it in the library area that we've just managed to create.

Miraculously,education minister Eric Forth has found another Pounds 2 million for this initiative. Do you think the DFE discovered an underspent budget head as year end approaches? But this will only add an extra five schools to Bolton's list.

Is this any way to provide for the education of children in this most vital area? If the Secretary of State believes in providing for the future of the children in our schools, then wouldn't it be better to fund all schools adequately? My school is facing budget cuts amounting to 2 per cent this year. We are already having to lose one teacher from August 31, and now I have to try to find 0.5 per cent to fully fund the teacher's pay award.

Bolton is not an authority which holds back vast sums of money at the centre. It currently delegates 85 per cent of its budget and spends above its standing spending assessment. Its central services are trimmed to a keen level and by and large provide an excellent service to my school. At the moment our class sizes are still acceptable. Our standards are good, or should that be "sound"?

But for how long will I be able, along with my governors, to hold the line? My nights are often disturbed. When will this torture come to an end?

J. HATCH

Headteacher

St Bede CE (Aided) Primary School

Bolton

Lancs

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