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Last updated: 12.09.11

Independent schools' use of e-learning is 'exciting'

Independent schools across the country are increasingly making use of computer and virtual learning environments to inform the way they teach, according to an expert.

Despite not being the subject of government funding initiatives and previous computers for schools programmes, the independent education sector has continued to implement online learning as part of its curriculum, the Financial Times reports.

"We really are harnessing some of the best bits of technology, particularly the apps revolution, for teaching and learning," explained Mark Steed, the principal of Hertfordshire's Berkhamsted School and chairman of the Independent Schools Council ICT strategy group.

He added that using online peer groups for students to produce and critique each other's work has been "fascinating" to watch as learners constructively evaluate projects, while unwritten rules develop such as conventions against unduly criticising work for no reason.

E-learning through internet provision has not compromised the safety of students either, according to Ian Yorston, head of digital strategy at Oxfordshire's Radley College.

The problems faced in an ICT environment are "exactly" the same as in a physical one, according to Mr Yorston. Issues such as bullying, pornography and plagiarism are the same for any institution and have been for "the past 200 years", he added.

Whereas private schools have weathered budget cuts to the education sector due to the recession - partly out of the fact the provision of ICT in independent institutions was initiated without much government intervention - it is a different situation for the public realm.

According to Miles Berry, senior lecturer in ICT education at the University of Roehampton and vice chair of Naace, the ICT Association, the situation is "likely to be quite tight for the next few years" for the state education sector.

Echoing Mr Steed's comments, he added that "free, web based services such as Google's Apps for Education and open source software go some way to help" as schools will need to make sure they make the best use of their funding and obtain the best value from future spending.