HC Deb 06 July 2000 vol 353 cc419-20
15. Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

What measures he is taking to increase knowledge of the internet among those in full-time education. [127934]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. Michael Wills)

We have provided an improved and strengthened curriculum in information and communication technology, better advice to teachers—including a £230 million teacher training programme—and an unprecedented increase in equipment and resources to schools. The pupil-computer ratio in primary schools has reduced from 1:18 to 1:13, and internet access has improved dramatically—62 per cent. of primary schools are now connected to the internet, compared with only one in six in 1997.

Mr. Flynn

Is the internet not a wonderful new resource for those in full-time education, enabling them to research their work in greater depth and breadth than was possible using traditional means? Is it not also a marvellous new way in which those in education can publish their own creative work to a huge audience? Would it not give a marvellous impetus if the Government added to the great work that they have done in that area by holding a competition to encourage schools that produce excellent work, and publishing that work on the Department's website?

Mr. Wills

I thank my hon. Friend. I agree that these technologies provide unprecedented opportunities for children to improve their education. We are already seeing evidence that they are driving up standards. I welcome my hon. Friend's suggestion, which will form part of our continuing review aimed at improving the national grid for learning.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

Does the Minister accept that the delivery of education via the internet is subject to the same restrictions as other forms of education so far as partisan propaganda is concerned? In particular, does he realise that the Education Act 1986, which said that politically controversial subjects must be treated even-handedly, is being blatantly disregarded by the No. 10 website? I have in my hand an internet printout of an interview in which the Minister for Europe answers questions from schoolchildren on European unification. It is totally one-sided propaganda, with no indication of the arguments against the case.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Time is passing, and the hon. Gentleman must ask his question.

Mr. Wills

To be honest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was rather lost as the hon. Gentleman put out his own propaganda. He has fundamentally missed the point of new technologies. Use of the internet to deliver the curriculum fundamentally drives up standards. That is why we are investing so much money in it. It is a shame that the hon. Gentleman does not recognise the opportunities that it offers.