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Websites drain the public purse

More than pound;9 million of taxpayers' money is being spent on Government education websites, junior minister Stephen Twigg told MPs.

Teachers' leaders criticised the figure as "excessive" and called on ministers to stop using the internet to attempt to micro-manage schools.

The Department for Education and Skills spends pound;5.3m on eight websites including the pound;2.4m www.curriculumonline.gov.uk, which offers schools multimedia learning resources.

As the TES reported earlier this year, schools have been slow to use the pound;100m worth of electronic learning credits set aside to spend on educational materials provided via the site.

The department's central website, www.dfes.gov.uk, which includes press releases, official statistics, research and policy documents, costs pound;1.9m per year. The DfES also spends a total of pound;1m on six other websites, including Teachernet and sites for parents and governors.

The pound;8.9m spent by the DfES and its agencies does not include spending by the Office for Standards in Education, which is a separate department, or the Learning and Skills Council.

John Bangs, National Union of Teachers head of education, said: "The Government provides a lot of useful on-line information for teachers, but it gets obscured by its attempts to use the internet to micro-manage schools."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said it was an enormous sum.

A DfES spokesman said: "The departmental website is one of the largest and most heavily used in Government. A recent assessment by an independent survey of the 20 most used Government sites held us up as a 'a beacon of light in a sea of darkness'."

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