Schools get more freedom for IT spend

New rules will give schools more control over how they invest in technology, as the government turns to electronic white-boarding and an 'international dating agency' as the way forward for education

Schools are to get more freedom to spend on IT, under measures announced by education and skills secretary Charles Clarke on Wednesday.

Speaking at the BETT conference and exhibition in London, Clarke said that rules will be changed to allow schools to spend their devolved capital money on technology if they have the means to do so. Devolved capital money is funding that schools are allowed to spend on projects of their choice, but could until now use only for building work.

Clarke also pledged £50m for investment in electronic white-boarding technology, which he lauded as having great potential for education. Schools will get £25m in their 2003/4 financial year, and another £25m in the 2004/5 year.

"ICT transforms education and the way that children learn," said Clarke. "I want a system that allows them to learn at their own pace in ways that suit them best." Effective use of technology is vital for realizing this vision, he said.

Clarke also announced the creation of a global gateway for schools, which he characterised as a dating agency to help UK schools find and build partnerships with schools overseas. "We all know that after that initial contact has been made, the possibilities are endless," said Clarke.

Average expenditure on ICT rose in primary schools from £68m in 1998, to £201m in 2003, and in secondary schools from £143m to £223m over the same period.