Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Christmas arrives early with Gimmick Government


Hundreds of 10 and 11-year-olds in some of Wales’ poorest areas will be first to benefit from a new scheme to provide free laptop computers to children, it was announced today.

The pilot project, which will cost £700,000 over the next two years, will initially see 1,200 school children in Communities First and Flying Start areas receiving the machines.

Conservatives have denounced the Assembly Government move as an expensive gimmick.

The scheme was a key pledge in the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition One Wales pact, with Labour Education Minister Leighton Andrews saying computers are now as essential as books and pens.

Plaid made the provision of a laptop for all 11-year-olds a central plank of its 2007 Assembly manifesto in which the party claimed: “The laptop is today’s equivalent of the pencil.”
The Assembly Government will provide £300,000 in 2009-10 and £400,000 in 2010-11.
Laptops funded through the pilot will belong to the school or local education authority but it is expected children will have the opportunity to use these for learning at home or in community buildings such as public libraries.
Children who receive laptops – plus their parents or carers – will be asked to sign guidance on “safe and appropriate” use of the internet.
The Welsh Language Board has agreed to provide free software for installation on the laptops.
Mr Andrews, launching the scheme in Newport today, said:
The Welsh Assembly Government made a commitment through the One Wales [coalition pact] to pilot the provision of laptops for children.

Computers have become as essential a part of school life as books, pens and paper. Having access to computers provides clear educational benefits such as offering pupils more creative learning experiences and giving them the opportunity to do projects and research on the internet.
A priority is to ensure that children from Wales’ poorest neighbourhoods gain experience with computer technology.

Rhondda AM Mr Andrews said:
A key element of the laptop pilot is to support digital inclusion. Research has shown that if you live in more deprived areas, you are more likely to be digitally excluded.

This is why the pilot is being carried out in schools within Communities First and Flying Start areas. Schools should therefore have arrangements for ensuring that the children receiving laptops are those most likely to benefit.

The project’s proposals offer innovative ways of using laptops to encourage children to engage in learning. They should also help pupils to improve their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills. I look forward to hearing the views of teachers, pupils and parents in the participating schools as the pilot progresses.
The Assembly Government will provide £25,000 of funding for staff training and evaluation.
Shadow Heritage Minister Paul Davies was not impressed:
This expensive and ill-advised scheme makes even less sense in this tough financial climate, particularly given that the gap in average spend per pupil between Wales and England has risen to £527.

This money could have been used elsewhere within the education system.

Yet again, the Welsh Assembly Government has failed to recognise the real priorities for education in Wales. Our schools need adequate funding not more gimmicks.

Philip Dixon, of education union ATL, gave an enthusiastic welcome to the announcement.
He said: “It’s an educational double-whammy. It’s improving children’s skills and tackling deprivation.
“They have to have those skills if they are going to survive in life and we know unfortunately in deprived areas the take-up of broadband and IT is much more limited.”
Plaid education spokeswoman Nerys Evans welcomed the funding:
In today’s world, many children are familiar with using the latest technology and new media. Integrating that into the way they learn from an early age is a natural step that can have a range of advantages for them.

Making this technology available in our schools is one way of ensuring that those who may not have the opportunity to use a computer at home do not lose out as a result. At a time when money is extremely tight, we have to look at using public funds in the most cost effective way. So looking at innovations such as the use of laptops in schools is an important step forward.

1 comments:

Dr. Christopher Wood 1 April 2010 at 13:53  

It's quite ridiculous - children from all backgrounds need, most of all, is a firm grounding in the '3Rs'. We do children a disservice if we think laptops are any substitute for the '3Rs'.

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