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EDUCATION IS ONLINE - SCHOOLS MINISTER

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Over half of Britain's primary schools are now connected to the internet thanks to the government's national grid f...
Over half of Britain's primary schools are now connected to the internet thanks to the government's national grid for learning (NGfL), schools minister Charles Clarke has said.

Speaking about an NOP survey commissioned by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTa) to investigate information and communications technology (ICT) usage in schools, Mr Clarke said:

'We pioneered arrangements with BT and the cable companies to wire up schools to the superhighway free of charge and this appears to be paying off. Latest NOP estimates indicate that 51% of primary schools are now connected to the internet. This compares with only 17% in 1997.

'But it is not only primary schools that are reaping the benefits of the information Age. Other estimates and surveys undertaken across the education service indicate that 90% of secondary schools, 100% of colleges of further education and 100% of universities currently have internet access.'

'While targets for connection by the end of 1999 have not been set, our aim is that all schools, colleges, universities, libraries and as many community centres as possible should be online and able to benefit from access to the national grid for learning by 2002. To help achieve this target we are supporting over£700m of ICT- related expenditure in UK schools over this period.

'We are also investing£230m through the new opportunities fund to train teachers in the use of ICT in the classroom. This will help bring serving teachers up to the standard required of new teachers entering the profession from September 1999 who have followed the initial teacher training national curriculum, which includes the use of ICT in subject teaching.'

Schools are already able to take advantage of special tariffs for connection to the internet. Earlier this month Oftel announced agreement in principle with telecommunications operators to extend similar benefits to public libraries, colleges and citizens' advice bureaux.

Statistics collected late in 1997 found that 5% of public library service points offered public internet access. The Library and Information Commission is currently compiling updated statistics, as part of the development of the public library ICT network which will link all public libraries, where practicable, to the NGfL by 2002.

NOTES

1. BECTa estimates that 90% of secondary schools are now connected to the internet. An NOP telephone survey carried out in April suggested that more than half of primary schools and special schools were online.

2. A survey commissioned by UKERNA in March 1999 found that 100% of colleges which responded had internet access. The United Kingdom's academic and research network, JANET, connects several hundred institutions, including all universities, most colleges of higher education, most research council establishments and other

organisations that work in collaboration with the academic and research community.

3. The government pioneered arrangements with BT and the cable companies to wire up schools to the superhighway free of charge. Oftel and the telecoms industry reached agreement in Autumn 1997 on how that commitment would be implemented. Schools have a choice of free connections and of technologies, either ISDN2 or equivalent from

BT or the cable companies (further information is available from OFTEL on 0171 634 8700).

4. Schools, colleges and libraries will be able to buy high quality computer networks at competitive prices thanks to a new deal with suppliers brokered by the government. Under the NGfL certified managed services launched on 21 July, schools will have a one-stop shop from which to buy computer networks at value for money prices and with built-in guarantees of quality.

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