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A Staffordshire town has become the first in the UK to get all its schools wired via an intranet. Seventeen schools in the market town of Rugeley are connected through schoolmaster.net, a free education Web system with more than 100,000 users in the UK. The online community, which also includes Rugeley Town Hall, is aimed at letting kids, parents and teachers communicate safely by email, chatrooms and discussion forums. The system, monitored by schoolmaster.net to keep out anyone not registered, is also able to link up with foreign schools, as it is used in 43 other countries. Manou Marzban, sales director at schoolmaster.net, said: "Parents are petrified about what their kids may find on the Internet - especially regarding the high rise in paedophiles targeting kids via chatrooms. There are no standards on the Web." Chris Perkins, deputy headteacher at Etching Hill Primary School in Rugeley, said: "Our teachers are using this first ever town wide Internet community to share their ideas with each other, to set homework and provide online help to their pupils." Perkins said pupils were using schoolmaster.net to set up homework support groups and find out more about other societies and cultures. A trial virtual shared lesson has already taken place between Rugely and schools in Western Springs, Illinois. Schoolmaster.net is used in around 1,300 British schools and was voted the best software for secondary schools at the BETT 2000 technology show. It has 120,000 users worldwide. Rugeley's other claim to fame is that it was the starting point for the first public transatlantic telephone call, via the Telstar satellite, in 1962. ® Related Stories Schools inspector slams mobiles & the Net Blair gov offers half-price PCs to teachers RM makes the grade with latest figures

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