IT provider speaks out against National Secondary School Computer Fund criteria

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IT provider speaks out against National Secondary School Computer Fund criteria

With round one of applications now closed for the $1 billion National Secondary School Computer Fund, educational computing provider Computelec is raising concerns of whether some schools are equipped with sufficient support facilities or internal resources to meet the Rudd Government’s application criteria.

Following an initial audit of Australia’s secondary schools, round one of the National Secondary School Computer Fund promises up to $1 million in funding to schools selected from a pool of 937 institutions with a computer-to-student ratio of 1:8 or worse.

Eligible schools each were required to submit an application for funding by 4 April, including an Information Communication Technology (ICT) plan to purchase software, hardware, maintenance, training, and technical support, as well as developing a teaching effort to make full use of the ICT resources provided.

“There has clearly been some concern from schools about meeting the deadline, because an ICT plan has to be submitted with the application for funding,” said Darren Elsby, national sales and marketing manager of Computelec, stressing that the industry should be aware that some schools in urgent need of ICT development may be left behind.

“There are some schools that have probably struggled with that, and rightly so, because they are very small regional schools that don’t necessarily have the resources or the ICT proficiency to enable a plan like that,” he said.

While he was unable to name specific schools that may be disadvantaged by the program’s requirements, Elsby said that the group of institutions most at risk included “small schools that have traditionally had limited spend around ICT”.

Applauding the government for an initiative that he said represents an incredible effort to bridge the digital divide and close the gap between the haves and the have-nots, Elsby said the program also provides a focus around digital literacy and the importance of teaching ICT in the school curriculum.

“The government is clearly heading down this excellent path, but at the same time, schools need to realise that technology is extremely important,” he said, putting the burden of responsibility on the industry, local governments, and the Federal Government to provide ICT training and equipment to schools.

Since 1990, Computalec has worked with Australian schools such as the Methodist Ladies College to deploy 1:1 notebook programs that provide each student with a computer. The company also offers software, hardware, teacher training, and infrastructure support to suit each school’s unique requirements.

Elsby estimated the cost of Computalec’s 1:1 notebook programs to range from $2000 to $3000 per child over the course of three years, depending on the device, software bundle and payment options selected by the parents and school.

He pointed out potential cost reductions with the Rudd Government’s Family Tax Benefit, which allows parents to collect a rebate on the purchase of technology products that may be required for their children’s education.

“It’s never been cheaper for parents and schools to enter into technology programs,” Elsby said, noting that while a majority of Computelec’s notebook programs tend to exist within the independent school sector, cost reductions and government funding may allow the company to extend its reach to government schools also.

“That’s what’s exciting about this new government program,” he said. “It allows all schools of all sizes, shapes, denominations, whatever the case may be, to rake into this 1:1 or 1:2 notebook program space.”
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