The government yesterday embarked on the latest stage in its plan to ensure that the nation's children get access to the latest technology. Dubbed UK NetYear, the Internet project is part of what Tony Blair has called "the biggest public-private partnership in any education system anywhere in the world". NetYear will help schoolchildren learn to use the Internet, with a dedicated Web site and a series of initiatives in individual schools letting children communicate with each other across the Net. UK NetYear executive chairman David Wimpress, said the programme was necessary to ensure British companies can recruit school-leavers with adequate IT skills. "The long-term aim is to ensure that children leaving school have the skill to be effective members of the information society," he explained. Eighteen schools across the UK were involved in yesterday's launch, which included a live Webcast over the Internet and a live TV broadcast via microwave and satellite link from London to venues in Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff. Craig Carton, a 16-year-old Manchester schoolboy, learned to use video conferencing equipment under the scheme so he could speak to pupils back at his school from the London launch. "The Internet has already helped me in my school work and to talk with people from round the world," he said. "NetYear lets me see how more new technology works." UK NetYear was founded by Cisco, ICL, Sun and The Daily Telegraph. An undisclosed proportion of the government's #100 million earmarked for IT in schools will go towards the NetYear project. The private companies involved would not disclose how much they are investing, but said they would guide schools on how to do their own fundraising and underwrite the project. Cisco's European marketing manager, Mike McKeown, said work in education presents different challenges to the business sector. "Few teachers have training in IT," he explained. "We know the benefits of having IT in schools, and now it's a question of spreading this message." NetYear is the latest component of the government's National Grid for Learning initiative, announced last summer. www.uknetyear.org.
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