Getting hooked up to the Internet is likely to top every school's agenda this year - if it hasn't already - particularly if a national IT initiative gets its way. Following the clamour for IT systems generated by the BETT show in January, UK NetYear has seen 7,092 schools and 88 local authorities register for its information and technology advice.
UK NetYear promotes IT training for teachers and seeks to increase the number of connected schools. It provides a CD-Rom and a comprehensive 200-page guide to accessing the Internet. "People want this information because it's high value and costs them nothing," says David Wimpress, chairman of UK NetYear. "At Bett 98, we gave teachers a heck of a lot of insight into basic IT training."
The success or failure of schemes like UK NetYear, which is setting itself up as a charity, rely heavily upon continuing support and enthusiasm throughout the year. So the organisation is launching a series of fundraising, training and celebratory events. The first Net days are on June 5 and 6.
And, in a cunning campaign move, 1998 has also been designated UK NetYear to really ram the message home - the Internet is where it's at.
One of UK NetYear's first practical offers is the provision of free e-mail addresses through Excite, the Internet search engine provider, says Mr Wimpress. "The Stevenson report on ICT (information and communications technology) calls for 50 per cent of children and 75 per cent of teachers to have ane-mail address by 2002.
"We are going to deliver that in 1998. Free for life for every child and teacher."
In another part of its strategy, UK NetYear is working in partnership with BBC Education on a multimedia programme called Computers Don't Bite: Teachers, together with an information-packed magazine. These will be available for all teachers, free, from around May.
UK NetYear also has plans to link up with YouthNet, the online information guide for young people supported by BBC broadcaster Martyn Lewis. UK NetYear will be writing to schools at the end of the spring about how to apply for funding. "Schools are drawn to the fact that we are doing our very best to raise large sums of money for them," comments Mr Wimpress.
He says that the scheme's main aim is to encourage sponsorship, with more companies coming on board throughout the year and beyond.
Another incentive to come into play later in the year is a programme called Net Cash. Tokens on consumer goods, such as electrical products, can be collected and redeemed against UK NetYear endorsed products.
The brainchild of Sun Microsystems, the pound;2 million budget for creating and launching UKNetYear was set up by ICL, Cisco, Sun Microsystems and the Daily Telegraph. Other sponsors include Xemplar, RM and Oracle.
New sponsors are joining - including Fujitsu and Tesco - and more are being sought. They will provide a mixtureof cash donations and services andproducts.
Sponsors, hopefully, will enter into the community spirit of the programme by supporting educational provision rather than vying for lucrative business contracts. "What we don't want are lots of competing initiatives," says Sally Pocock, UK NetYear's marketing manager.
Conspicuous by their absence is BT. But, said Sun's marketing director Martyn Lambert: "There's nothing to prevent BT from becoming a major sponsoring partner of UK NetYear."
They are not at present, but sources say they are holding talks with Mr Wimpress to discuss their future role in the initiative.
UK NetYear, Beaumont, Old Windsor, Berkshire SL4 2JP.
Tel: 01753 604082. Fax: 01753 604208 Website: http:www.uknetyear.org