HC Deb 02 May 2000 vol 349 cc91-2W
Dr. Cable

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how he intends to make further use of information and communication technologies in the education of children unable to attend mainstream schooling through(a) disability, (b) illness, (c) behavioural problems and (d) neglect. [120196]

Jacqui Smith

Information and communication technologies (ICT) can facilitate effective communication and give access to resources regardless of the learners' location and individual needs. The Government are committed to exploiting the benefits and advantages of ICT in developing learning in a range of settings, as described.

The developing National Grid for Learning (NGfL) has a specific remit to encourage the inclusion of all pupils—in particular, those with Special Educational Needs (SEN), the disadvantaged, and any children who, for whatever reason, are not being educated at school. Recent developments include the new Inclusion website which is currently focusing on SEN and provides teachers, parents and other professionals with a catalogue of on-line resources.

My Department encourages Local Education Authorities to use ICT in supporting sick children. We have also made £95,000 available in 1999–2000 to provide lap tops for hospital and home tuition services.

Using the Standards Fund, a number of LEAs are piloting innovative ICT projects to support inclusion and reduce exclusions and the incidence of difficult behaviour. We will be evaluating these projects and will aim to disseminate good and best practice arising from them.

The Department is sponsoring a pilot project (Notschoolnet) on the use of ICT to support groups of pupils excluded from school. The pilot includes the provision of ICT equipment and facilitators providing on-line support for students at home or other locations. We have also funded major trials of digital broadcast material, which have been taking place in schools and with independent learners over the last few months.

Dr. Cable

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will consult internet companies about providing educational assistance for children unable to take part in mainstream education. [120199]

Jacqui Smith

The Government are investing over £1.7 billion in their information and communications technology (ICT). My Department and the British Educational Communications and Technology agency (BECTa) are in regular contact with all those involved in the provision of ICT education materials.

We have issued a challenge document, "Open for Learning, Open for Business", which calls for a national effort to develop content for the Grid under a framework offering access and education resources for both mainstream and special schools. On 10 April we held a major conference which focused on the ICT content (software) industry to discuss the way forward with companies who are linked to the National Grid for Learning.