HC Deb 14 February 1983 vol 37 cc11-2
14. Mr. Greenway

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is satisfied with the progress of his Department's microcomputers for schools programme; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The progress is good. We have provided 6,400 microcomputers to secondary schools. As far as we can judge, every secondary school now has one; we are the first country to achieve this. The primary school scheme began in October last year. So far 6,500 schools have applied out of the 27,000 eligible. Including Europe, the United States and Japan, we are leading the world in the impact we are making on education through the use of microcomputers. This is good news for the future of our young people and of Britain as a whole.

Mr. Greenway

I am sure that the whole country will join me in congratulating my hon. Friend on that progress. [Interruption.] Will his Department look at the provision of microcomputers in special schools? Some expense is involved because the computers have to be adapted to the needs of disabled children. However, it is important to remember that equal opportunities will be given to disabled people through the use of those computers. Can something be done for them?

Mr. Baker

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I was surprised at the grudging way in which the Opposition welcomed the good news. There is no doubt that microelectronics applied to disabled or handicapped children can result in considerable improvements. We are sponsoring several experiments in special schools to ensure that those developments come through and are widespread.

Mr. John Garrett

Does the Minister ever visit the schools that are on the receiving end of his microcomputer scheme? Does he find, as many others do, that the Department of Education and Science has undermined the scheme by refusing to provide extra money for software or training? No head teacher will pay for software or training when the money comes out of the capitation allowance for the school, which is being cut. He will not buy software if the children will have to share books.

Mr. Baker

I visit schools frequently. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not receive such comments. The Department of Education and Science allocated £9 million and has just announced that it will increase that sum. From our budget we have allocated an additional £500,000 for educational software.