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RURAL AND SMALL SCHOOLS PRIORITY IN GOVERNMENT'S IT DRIVE

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Hansard 9 Nov 1998: Column 119 ...
Hansard 9 Nov 1998: Column 119

Education minister Charles Clarke told the commons last night the government was giving priority to rural primary schools in its funding for the new national grid for learning and in the£235m teacher

training programme in information technology.

'We have said that, in distributing the£105m of standards fund money for the national grid for learning, local education authorities local education authorities should take specific account of the

additional needs of primary schools, small schools and isolated schools. Money from that fund will be targeted - extra priority will be given to rural primary schools', said Mr Clarke.

He was replying to an adjournment debated initiated by David Taylor, Labour MP for North West Leicestershire and a former local government software development and computer manager. In small village schools, often with fewer than six teachers, there could be difficulties in implementing IT coherently and satisfactorily because staff were already carry responsibilities for other tasks. Training

must be structured, continuing and must take account of the difficulties in releasing teachers and other staff from smaller schools. Teachers with little or no IT background needed consistent, continuous professional development.

Mr Clarke added: 'My preferred training alternative is external providers. I strongly endorse the view of the National Union of Teachers that such training providers must demonstrate the application of IT and not make it an isolated subject area...Special arrangements are needed to provide a cost-effective support service, readily available on site or online to families of small schools. Until small schools.

'Until small schools have guaranteed access to that high quality technical support, it would be ludicrous for them to have to meet nationally-imposed IT targets. Perhaps the best way to provide that service in rural areas is via local education advisory services with a role similar to that of the laboratory technician in secondary and larger schools'.

Mr Clarke said the Teacher Training Agency was carrying through a tendering process for teacher IT training, with tenders closing on 20 November. It had already received 'substantial and good bids' from

consortiums of local authorities and colleges and 'some talented and good bids from IT companies and educational organisations, often working together'.

He agreed with Mr Taylor that it was no use training teachers but providing little on-going support.

'The present LEA adviser system is very patchy: only half of LEAs have a very good IT support system. The system has been run down in the past and must be rebuilt', he said.

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