The government announced today a wide-ranging program of investments in ICT for schools and colleges in the UK.
Speaking at the Bett education show in Olympia, education and skills secretary Charles Clarke said, "We have placed ICT at the heart of educational transformation because it enhances both the process and the product of education, empowering learners and helping teachers and lecturers innovate in the classroom."
Clarke used his keynote speech to outline funding initiatives, totalling £862m, which will be spent on increasing the penetration of technology throughout the education system. He pledged a further £280m for e-learning credits which. This will be added to the £100mn that has already been invested, which adds up to £100mn per year that will be spent on giving schools access to online curriculum materials over the next three years.
"Curriculum online is now fully open for business," said Clarke. "The portal means a revolution in the way teachers can search, compare, select and share digital resources," he explained.
In order to ensure that schools can gain access to the wealth of resources to be made available online, the government is also spending a further £287m, on top of the £71m announced last year, to ensure it meets its pledge to give all schools broadband access by 2006. It also plans to spend £195m over the next three years to provide more teachers with their own laptop computers.
"By 2006 we will have provided over two thirds of teachers with personal access to a computer," vowed Clarke.
A further £8m is being spent on giving teachers online training.
While schools were the main focus of today's announcements, Clarke also said that £92m will be ploughed into developing College Online, which extends the Curriculum Online concept to learners over the age of 16. "The post-16 sector via College Online will also soon have access to a much wider range of high-quality, learner focused online content" he said.
Clarke also took the opportunity to applaud culture minister Tessa Jowell's approval of the development of the BBC Digital Curriculum, which plans to offer both free and paid for resources to teachers. But this move has not met with approval from all quarters with some educational publishers attacking the BBC's £150m project, saying it will stifle competition in this market.
A statement on The Publishers Association website says: "Our members are concerned that the BBC will provide the Digital Curriculum as a free service at the point of delivery and funded through the licence fee. The effect of this subsidy would be to stifle at the outset the development of competition in the provision of online educational services to support the school curriculum and therefore deprive schools, students and parents of choice."