HC Deb 10 November 1966 vol 735 cc1520-1
18. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the policy of his Department with regard to the provisions of medium-size and small computers specifically for training purposes.

Mr. Crosland

Proposals for computer installations are considered by the Computer Board in the case of universities, and by local education authorities, subject to the sanction of my Department, in the case of other higher education establishments. The need for access by students as well as research and other needs is borne in mind in considering applications, but it would normally be uneconomic to provide computers solely for training purposes.

Mr. Mitchell

Is there not an acute shortage of young people trained in computer skills, and would not relatively small expenditure on computers designed specifically for teaching purposes greatly help to overcome the shortage?

Mr. Crosland

I have some sympathy with what my hon. Friend says in the first part of his supplementary question, but this is a field in which equipment is extremely expensive. So far as one can make sure that machines serve more than one purpose, it seems to me essential to do so, but we certainly try to bear his purpose in mind.

Mr. Woodburn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the expert advice of computer manufacturers is that these small computers are a waste of money because their educational value can be so quickly exhausted and is far too little for the amount of money required, and that the educational purpose is served best by making use of much more complicated machines, which can only be done collectively?

Mr. Crosland

I think that that reflects the bias of our expenditure in the education system as a whole.