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Educational computer systems in Britain face a radical overhaul in order to improve authorities' intelligence about the children in their care.

Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education & Skills, gave a hint of the enormity of the task during a speech at the education technology trade show, BETT, in London today.

Data held about school children must be brought up to the "highest standard", she said, so that it could be shared with other government departments, parents and teachers.

"We intend to establish governance arrangements which will bring together the key partners across the children and learning sectors to tackle this issue system-wide," she said.

Behind the scenes, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, a quango, has been entrusted with much of the strategic direction behind this and related technological schemes in education.

The Department for Education & Skills wants schools to share data about children with police and social services. But many school systems are not up to scratch. Becta will accordingly be pushing for schools to overhaul their management information systems. These will be linked into learning environments, as well as the systems of external agencies.

The department also intends to fold pupils' data back into the system to tailor learning provision to their individual needs.

This is all going to take a lot of money, not least because bringing school data up to scratch is going to depend on the completion of a number of other schemes being co-ordinated at Becta.

As it happens, every one of the key policy areas being tackled by Becta for the DfES (infrastructure, data, learning, connectivity) will have some bearing on the validity of data held in education.

Not surprisingly, said a source at Becta, improving the quality of data in education is going to be a "mammoth task".

In 2005, the quango began setting up procurement frameworks to govern suppliers who do the work in these areas. The most significant framework agreements, which will govern the detail of Kelly's plans, are still on the drawing board.

Frameworks for infrastructure services, learning services and MIS systems will be decided this year, even as Becta and the DfES are pushing for schools to get on with upgrading their systems in these areas. ®

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