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What if... there were no teachers

Future pupils could spend part of their education in computer-generated worlds - or abandon traditional schools altogether.

Keri Facer, research director of the Futurelab education technology research laboratory in Bristol, will discuss the possibilities in a speech on Thursday at the Bett technology show in London.

A report from Futurelab suggests schools could offer pupils a mix of lessons, some in the real world and some with virtual teachers in the environments like those in online games such as Second Life. Ms Facer said today's schools were based on a Victorian factory, with children sitting down at desks in front of a teacher.

"The world and the job market are so different now, we will need to develop different models of education," she said.

The challenge was to ensure poor and deprived children were not left behind by the march to a technological future. "I will be looking a bit further on, looking at questions such as, should schools still exist at all?" she said.

The report, What if... Re-imagining learning spaces, calls for a more radical debate on the future of education, suggesting that school could be made optional. It says new technology will allow learning to happen anywhere - not just in the classroom, and will replace a "misguided individualist notion" with pupil collaboration.

"What if school wasn't compulsory but had to attract people who didn't legally have to be there?" the report said. Other ideas it said could be discussed included giving pupils personal office spaces, or "pods", which could be wheeled around the school, then parked in classrooms or connected to other students' pods. pound;3bn computer bill, page 20

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