ICT breakthrough for Norfolk’s schools

Teachers will be better able to keep track of their students and computers should be quicker and easier to use at Norfolk's 430-plus schools, thanks to a groundbreaking IT deal between the county council and BT.

At the moment, school staff can lose track of students on the 14-19 diplomas and other courses as they move between different schools and colleges to study.

The problem exists because the council currently runs both a learning system and an information management system. Pupils and teachers cannot move from one to the other without closing down computers and entering their details again.

Now the council has signed up to use BT's virtual data system, which is already used by other authorities and is designed to eliminate the problems.

The system will also enable the council to save money and cut carbon emissions by getting rid of some of the computer hardware that is needed at its base to maintain the existing system.

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It will also make it easier for the children's services department to add and remove new ICT applications, taking a fraction of the time it takes now.

Paul Fisher, assistant director of education, said: 'It's a new approach. We don't have to make up-front investment. You only pay running costs and can dictate how things happen.'

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He said the department currently provided the county broadband network that ran to all schools, a pupil management system to manage pupil data and an email system for all students.

He said: 'The bit we need is to stitch it all together. Our requirement is that if a child signs on to a computer anywhere, they should be able to sign on with a single identifier wherever they sign on.

'We need people to be able to move between one system and another without closing down and starting again.'

He added: 'This makes it a lot easier to use the system. It's the key to collaborative learning. For sixth form pupils on some courses, they may be at college two days a week and at school three days a week.

'They would have to run on different systems at the two places, which means it is possible to lose track of them.

'It will save money and time. We've currently got a learning system and a management information systems. They both require the same data when people use them. If you only have to load it once, it will make a big difference.'

Chris Ainslie, BT's managing director of local, regional and devolved government, said: 'We are very proud of the long term partnership we have built with Norfolk County Council and we're pleased that the VDC service will free up more time for them to concentrate on their core services.'

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