§ Mr. Greenway
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will take steps to ensure the supply of software to schools; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Butcher
Yes. As a result of this Government's policies we have a more highly developed use of computers in the United Kingdom than any other comparable country.
The Government wish to maintain the momentum created and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is announcing today a new programme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to replace the microelectronics education programme after March 1986.
My Department intends to contine its support for the education system in this field. In particular we need to ensure that hardware already installed is supported by an 456W adequate supply of educational software. We have decided, therefore, to provide additional help in this area during the current financial year, 1986–87 and 1987–88. Accordingly, sums of £0.5 million, £2 million and £1 million have been set aside in each of the three financial years concerned for local education authorities and independent secondary schools. The purpose of this support is to enable the education system to buy more educational software from the commercial sector. The scheme will apply throughout the United Kingdom. It represents support for the consumer rather than the producer and local education authorities will be free to make their own decisions about which software to buy.
I regard this as significant support by the Government for both the education system and educational software suppliers which will help schools to make full use of their existing investment in hardware. I hope that as a result of this support, software houses and educational publishers will recognise the determination of the Government to maintain the British lead in this area and that they will consider further investment in education software accordingly. The scheme should also provide a solid base in the United Kingdom from which our companies can take advantage of export opporturnties.