Merseyside groups link to develop networks

March 10, 1995

A public-private consortium with Liverpool John Moores University as a key participant has picked up the Government's information technology challenge.

The university is collaborating with Liverpool education organisations and Link Training, a national vocational training firm, to form the Merseyside Education Superhighway company.

MESH will establish multimedia learning centres in schools across Merseyside, using broad band networks supplied by cable television firms.

In January, Gillian Shephard Secretary of State for Education, called on private commercial interests to cooperate with public sector education institutions in building the national information infrastructure.

Peter Fowler, head of the university's award-winning Learning Methods Unit said: "The computing infrastructure we will install in Merseyside will, we believe, be the way forward for schools not only in the UK but around the world.

"Instead of buying textbooks, future schools and adult training centres will need a steady supply of relevant and high quality multimedia software, which can be downloaded over the education superhighway.

"As most material to support the national curriculum will have to be closely tailored to the United Kingdom market, there is great potential for business for UK software developers."

The university and Link will combine with Liverpool's secondary and special schools through their managerial association and the local education authority.

MESH aims to promote cost-effective learning in Merseyside, across all ages, by utilising the latest technologies, content and support tools to deliver relevant education, training and other services.

Learning centres in the schools will be equipped with multimedia PCs. The network will enable them to share information and software held on CD-Roms.

Discussions are planned on the level of access to the Internet that will be permitted.

The Internet provides global communication and access to vast funds of information, but for various reasons including the presence of pornography some schools have been wary of connecting to the network.

The centres will be used for classwork during school hours and at other times they will be used for commercial education and training, including National Vocational Qualifications and information technology training.

The first five centres will be opened in the summer.

Gideon Bentovim, head of the education committee at Liverpool City Council said: "What is different about this scheme compared to previous computer initiatives is its scale and its funding.

"In the past a number of schools around the country had looked at multimedia technology to help with the learning process, but no one had the vision or the resources to plan wholesale adoption of this technology, linked by a regional superhighway."

Gareth Hughes, director of Liverpool City of Learning project, said: "We have all the talents on Merseyside to take full advantage of the information age. Initiatives such as MESH aim for regional benefits but could also project Liverpool onto a world stage."

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