HC Deb 23 July 1985 vol 83 cc517-8W
Mr. Tracey

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the Government's plans for the further development of new technology in schools when the microelectronics education programme ends in March 1986.

Sir Keith Joseph

I propose to set up a new body, to be called the microelectronics support unit, which will provide support to local education authorities in a number of clearly defined areas, namely, the provision of a central information service; the training of trainers; and the development of relevant curricular materials for use in schools. The Government will also support, through the new unit and the existing regional network for special education, the further development of microelectronics in this field. The provision of inservice teacher training and the supply and dissemination of local and regional information will be the responsibility of local education authorities in the course of their normal provision of educational services. These decisions have been taken after consultation with a wide range of bodies.

The Government have allocated £2.2 million in 1986–87 to support the new body. The unit will run for five years with a review after three. This sum will be additional to those allocated by the Department of Trade and Industry for educational software as announced today by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

The microelectronics support unit will support work in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and will be centrally located. It will be under the control of a management board which a representative of the local education authorities will be invited to chair. Representatives of the Secondary Examinations Council, the Schools Curriculum Development Committee, the Council for Educational Technology, higher education, the IT industry and employers will be asked to make up the remainder of the board, together with HMI and departmental officials. Other details relating to the responsibilities and operation of the unit and its management board will be decided in consultation with local education authorities and others.

The new unit will follow and build upon the work of the microelectronics education programme which has made a significant contribution to the use of computers and microelectronic devices in schools in recent years.