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Schools fail to renew ageing PCs

But pupil to computer ratio falls

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Schools and colleges have more computers but many face a growing problem in renewing their IT equipment, a new report reveals.

Around half of schools do not have a policy in place for replacing old or broken workstations, according to the first annual review of the government's strategy for technology in education in England.

The report by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), released on 3 May, concludes that those that do have a policy (32 per cent of primary and 44 percent of secondary) intend to replace 25 per cent of their stock within five years – two years after the accepted target three-year lifespan.

The ratio of pupils to computers has also continued to fall. In 2005 there was one computer for every 6.1 primary school pupils on average and one for every 3.7 secondary school pupils.

In further education colleges, the demand for computers by the growing number of students outstrips supply.

"As a result, there has been a worsening of student-computer ratios in FE colleges," says the report.

However, interactive whiteboards are now prevalent in schools and colleges, with increasing numbers connected to computers with internet connection.

Mobile technologies are also set to play an "increasingly important role with personal ownership of mobile technologies such as laptops, PDAs and mobile phones on the rise in schools".

Despite significant improvements in internet bandwidth in schools, many teachers are unclear about the full range of benefits broadband can bring.

"In around a third of colleges, demand for internet access has continued to outpace college capability," says the report. "Unfortunately this represents a growing trend."

There is also still a "significant minority of pupils who do not have home internet access".

Although the market is providing increasing numbers of high quality products in the schools sector, provision is mixed.

"It is unlikely that demand will effectively drive improvements to quality, as purchases by schools continue to be concentrated on a relatively small number of suppliers. This is partly because practitioners are finding it difficult to develop effective strategies for identifying appropriate software," the report concludes.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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