Government pledges remote working for all pupils

Taskforce including Dell, Intel and RIM will promote remote access for UK pupils
Written by Andrew Donoghue, Contributor

The government has challenged schools, education organisations and the IT industry to create systems to allow all pupils in the UK to get access to the internet outside school.

Speaking at the BETT educational technology show in London's Olympia on Wednesday, schools' minister Jim Knight said the government wanted to make sure that pupils have internet access at home or through after-school clubs.

"The so-called digital divide cannot be allowed to create and reinforce social and academic divisions," Knight told an audience of educators and technical experts at an event to kick off the four-day show.

Currently the government estimates that around 800,000 pupils are only able to get access to the internet from school. Knight said that the government aims to remedy the situation by setting up a home-access taskforce to bring together organisations with the know-how to make it happen.

The government has already being working closely with Intel, RIM and Dell on how access for all UK school pupils could be enabled. Knight added that it was important that organisations "that know what they are talking about, i.e. not government" contribute to the home access taskforce.

Knight was keen to extol the virtues of technology, and the government's belief in how it can make a real difference to the education sector. "Technology has a huge impact to make. One in five schools has already integrated technology into all aspects of school life," Knight said. "We want to seize the opportunities that tech has to offer rather than being overwhelmed by the pace of change."

The government is also backing the concept of personalised learning — where pupils are able to pick and choose courses and materials that are relevant to them — and claims that online learning is vital part of this process.

Becta — the government's advisory body for IT in schools — will take the lead in the home-access taskforce, according to Knight.

However, Becta has come under criticism recently by some MPs for restricting schools from deploying open-source technologies.

Schools are advised that they should purchase all ICT products and services through a Becta framework. But back in November 2006, a group of 19 MPs claimed that these frameworks are biased in favour of large software suppliers and discriminates against smaller software suppliers, such as open-source developers.

Jim Knight at BETT 2007

UK schools' minister Jim Knight delivers the BETT show keynote


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