IT companies are being urged to donate their technologies to a programme that aims to help teachers and students use IT effectively, whatever their subject.

Microsoft, Oracle and IBM are among the existing IT companies that already contribute some of their resources to the programme.

Vital Professional Development, a government-backed programme run by the Open University and delivered with sector skills council e-skills UK, was initially designed to develop IT resources for computing teachers to use for teaching their subject. The Department for Education (DfE) has recently awarded £2.5 million to fund an expansion of the programme to include teachers of all subjects.

"Industry wants to see people coming through the school system making good use of technology. We should have people coming out of school literate in all areas of IT...and being able to apply it to their subjects," said Kevin Streater, executive director of employer engagement in IT & Telecoms at The Open University.

Streater believes that IT companies can do their part to enhance the education of IT, and the future workforce's ability to use IT, by making technologies available to schools more quickly than at present.

"We'd like more of the industry to engage with teachers. Vital is a great way to do this. We are hoping industry will come forward with resources.

"[For example, it usually takes] two to four years before we see a tool from Microsoft move from an IT service to a non-IT use. We would like to see that come down to weeks," he said.

Oracle, IBM and Microsoft have contributed to the programme by holding 'TeachMeets', meetings and conferences with teachers to find out what they need, creating IT resources for the programme and providing access to their services and software.

Schools providing state education to children aged between five and 19 can sign up to Vital for a nominal fee, which gives all their teachers access to subject-specific web-portals.

Staff employed by the Vital programme can develop applications on request, or teachers can develop their own applications - for example, a Google maps-based application to use in history or geography - and share successful ones on the portal for other teachers in the network to use.

Matt Lovegrove, a teacher at Sonning Common Primary School in Reading, said: "Vital has provided me with a network of teachers interested in the development of ICT within education and with a wide variety of excellent resources. Through sponsoring and hosting professional development events, such as TeachMeets, Vital helps bring IT innovation into classrooms and provides teachers with the support that they require to become innovative themselves."

More information about the Vital programme can be found here.