Cash-strapped schools urged to spend on games consoles

CASH-STRAPPED headteachers say they cannot afford to buy games consoles for pupils after it emerged a government body is encouraging schools to spend thousands of pounds on them.

Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) is offering schools a cut-price deal to buy 30 Nintendo DS systems for about 3,000.

The body, responsible for the school curriculum, has previously won accolades for boosting technology in learning, including an award from Star Wars director George Lucas' education foundation.

LTS carried out a trial scheme of the consoles in 32 schools last year, which claimed the Brain Training games helped children's learning.

But academics and education campaigners are sceptical the hand held games offer any benefits.

Ken Cunningham, the general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said headteachers had more pressing demands on their limited funding.

He said: "It is unlikely in current circumstances that any schools would be able to afford this. They would find it difficult to prioritise that over the many pressures they have on their limited finances."

However, he added: "It is a good product and probably a very good price."

Frank Gerstenberg, the former head of George Watson's College, was also sceptical: "I would tend to agree there are higher pressures at the moment in terms of allocation of resources."

Nick Seaton, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: "It's absolutely crazy and a poor use of taxpayers' money for schools to be spending on things like Nintendos when there isn't sufficient money to pay good teachers and buy school books."

A November survey by Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, claimed schools were so desperate for cash teachers shopped at Poundland to buy pens for pupils out of their own pockets.

The educational benefits of Nintendo Brain Training have been queried by academics, who say mental arithmetic using a pen and paper is better for children's development.

Professor Alain Lieury led the study, which compared two groups of ten-year-olds, one of which was were given pen and paper exercises and the other a Nintendo DS.

"The Nintendo DS is a technological jewel. As a game it's fine. But it is charlatanism to claim that it is a scientific test," he said. "There were few positive effects and they were weak."

However, an LTS spokeswoman said it was up to local authorities how to spend money .

She said: "Games-based learning is just one tool schools are using. Research conducted by LTS and the University of Dundee last year found this type of learning engaged and inspired pupils and boosted attainment."

PROFILE

LAURIE O'Donnell, director of Learning and Teaching Scotland, was last year named by the George Lucas Educational Foundation as one of its prestigious "Global Six" for 2008.

Mr O'Donnell became a member of the elite group of educationalists selected annually by the Star Wars director personally.

He was honoured for his work on Glow, the world's first nationwide education intranet, and for promoting the use of technology in Scottish classrooms. Lucas praised Glow as putting the United States to shame.

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