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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Getting schools and local educational authorities (LEAs) to embrace broadband remains a "challenge".

So says Keith Todd, chairman of the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG) which yesterday published a report into the opportunities and barriers to the use of broadband in education.

The report follows a pledge last November by prime minister Tony Blair to fund the provision of broadband to every school in the UK by 2006.

At the time Mr Blair said that IT was essential to the future of the UK economy and that as part of that, all schools needed to be wired up for high-speed net access.

However, the government's advisory group has identified a number of obstacles it warns could hamper the take-up and effective use of broadband in schools.

Uppermost is the question of funding and the difficulties faced by Local Authorities and LEAs to get hold of cash. It was noted that although funding was available for broadband projects from a number of different sources, often it was fragmented and controlled at different levels of government.

This fragmentation makes it harder to pool money to fund projects. And while the BSG acknowledges that Government is already doing much to make funding issues easier, it recommends that guidelines should be drawn up to help organisations pull together different funding resources to support new broadband projects.

But chucking money at broadband isn't enough. The BSG accepts that it is on a lost cause unless teachers and administrators accept that broadband has a place in the classroom and the running of schools.

Said the report: "Although there are many within the education sector who are supportive of the government’s commitment to broadband in education, others remain unconvinced about the benefits that broadband can deliver."

That's why it insists that those involved need to be educated and "motivated" themselves about the benefits of broadband.

Said Mr Todd in a statement: "The education sector is not yet fully exploiting the potential of ICT.

"The introduction of broadband in particular, represents a challenge to traditional methods of teaching, learning and administration and therefore needs to be accompanied by effective change management processes to ensure that educational organisations are compelled to use broadband."

Details of the report can be found here. ®

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