The government has announced further funding to beef up its commitment to IT in schools. David Blunkett, secretary of state for education and employment, has pledged an additional #230 million, on top of the #100 million already promised by prime minister Tony Blair, last year. In total, the government will provide #330 million to train teachers in IT, including #50 million to establish a database that will link schools with information held in museums and galleries. Also, there's a #5 million programme to provide headteachers and senior teachers with notebook computers. Speaking at the launch of the BETT 98 computers and education show in London last week, Blunkett said improving the IT skills of school leavers is essential for sustained economic growth in the UK. "This is about working in classrooms to make policy pronouncements a reality," he said. "We want to transform technology into a usable form for teachers. We can link this with the drive to improve reading and writing by complimenting rather than replacing traditional methods." Blunkett also announced the launch of the National Grid for Learning prototype linking 1,000 schools across the country. "We hope this will allow teachers to not only share ideas and materials, but also problems and how to overcome them," he said. Also at the show, Microsoft launched a #250,000 initiative for teacher training. Mark East, education customer unit general manager at Microsoft UK, said that in partnership with local education authorities, Microsoft will introduce a national programme for teacher training, helping training centres with resources and producing training material for Microsoft products. Teachers and librarians will have access to Microsoft accredited regional training centres, supporting the government's ambition to have all teachers trained in IT by 2002. Microsoft has also pledged unspecified amounts of further funding as the scheme takes shape. East said IT would have a greater impact on education than any other sector. "Learning will become more self-directed with teachers becoming more of a coach," he explained. "Parents will also take much more responsibility for learning, with children having access to information anytime, anywhere." The government's promised #230 million in extra funding is expected to come out of the proceeds of the midweek national lottery.
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