Government efforts to equip schools with computers and connect them to the internet has done little, if anything, to push up standards, according to a new report commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills.
The study took place between 1999 and 2002 and involved 60 schools in England.
Conducted by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, it was one of the most comprehensive investigations into the impact of IT on education so far conducted in the UK.
Although the Government has invested more than £1bn in IT for schools over the past five years, the report uncovered "no consistent relationship between computer use and pupil achievement in any subject at any age".
The ImpaCT2 study found that high users of IT performed marginally better than low IT users at GCSE level in Science and Design & Technology by an average of 0.56 and 0.41 of a GCSE grade, respectively.
Ironically, GCSE students made the greatest progress - 0.82 of a grade - in modern languages where computer usage was lowest.
The report warned that more time should be spent on using IT for exploratory learning in curriculum subjects, and less on teaching skills in dedicated IT lessons.
Teachers and governors, meanwhile, could make much better use of this potential resource through a more creative approach to homework and self-directed projects.
And schools need continuing support, including more funding for equipment which can be used flexibly, and more training for teachers in how to integrate IT with subject learning.
Education and Skills Secretary Charles Clarke last week defended the Government's huge investment in IT for education.
He asserted his commitment to a package of IT measures for schools and colleges to enhance traditional teaching practices and embed the central role of IT in raising standards.
Funding for new IT, including matched funding from local authorities, will rise to £920m by 2005-06, according to Clarke.
"Some people have contested the value of ICT in teaching and learning. I challenge that view," he said.
"We have placed ICT at the heart of educational transformation because it enhances both the process and the product of education, empowering learners and helping teachers and lecturers to innovate in the classroom.
"Today's measures will help teachers to be creative and embed best practice for all."
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