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Microelectronics in Education Programme - Strategy 1980-86

MEP Strategy 1981


Richard Fothergill published MEP's strategy in April 1981having been appointed in the previous November. It had a number of innovative ideas in it, including a wide definition of its work covering computer aided learning, computer studies, microelectronics and information handling and a strong emphasis on regional collaboration. The following extracts are from the original strategy which can be found here (Fothergill 1983).


The aim of the Programme was:

To help schools to prepare children for life in a society in which devices and systems based on microelectronics are commonplace and pervasive.

This was a time pre-National Curriculum when schools controlled what children were taught and so the strategy said:

schools should be encouraged to respond to these changes by amending the content and approach of individual subjects in the curriculum and, in some cases, by developing new topics... with the dual aim of enriching the study of individual subjects and of familiarising pupils with the use of the microcomputer itself... use should be made of the microcomputer to develop the individual pupil's capacity for independent learning and information retrieval

And it specifically raised the profile of special educational needs:

for those children with physical handicaps, new devices should be used to help them to adjust to their environment while those with mental handicaps should be encouraged and supported by computer programs and other learning systems which make use of the new technologies.

The scope of the Programme


MEP Strategy and other policy

papers published as a

CET book in 1983

The Programme was a schools programme including GCE O and A level courses. It split its scope into two parts:

The first covers the investigation of the most appropriate ways of using the computer as an aid to teaching and learning, as a guide to the individual child, as a learning aid for small groups of children, or as a system which involves the whole class.

The second part of the territory was the introduction of new topics including:

i) microelectronics in control technology;

ii) electronics and its applications in particular systems;

iii) computer studies;

iv) computer linked studies, including computer aided design, data logging and data processing;

v) word processing and other "electronic office" techniques;

vi) use of the computer as a means of information retrieval from databases.

Programme activities

The programme supported three types of activity: curriculum development; teacher training; and regional information centres

Curriculum Development

The programme asked for bids from regional and national groups to create software and other resources:

i) materials which make use of microcomputers and other devices based on microprocessors to assist with the teaching of "traditional" subjects;

ii) materials which support the teaching and learning of the "new topics" mentioned in paragraph 5 above; and

iii) supporting documentation which will help teachers make the most effective use of the new equipment and its associated curriculum materials.

National projects included the Schools Council "Computers in the Curriculum" project, and the work of organisations such as the Geographical Association. The strategy recocognied that the

"commercial publication of materials is on a small scale at present but the Programme may need to make increasing use of this and other methods of dissemination."

and In the longer term it will be necessary to consider how the introduction of new topics in the curriculum should be reflected in examination syllabuses.

Teacher Training

The Strategy set out the need for different types of training:

i) courses aimed at improving general awareness and familiarisation ... for teachers of all kinds, but in particular for headteachers and their deputies....

ii) short specialist courses ...for teachers who have been enthused by the awareness courses and for those wishing to modify their subject teaching to include new topics...

iii) longer specialist courses (of up to three months' duration or the part-time equivalent) aimed at teachers requiring additional training in particular fields. Examples would include science or craft/design teachers wishing to expand their knowledge of electronics...

iv) for these courses to be effective, resources also need to be devoted to the training of trainers and to refresher courses for LEA advisers.

v) the Programme will also be concerned with the advice which should be given to agencies wishing to design longer diploma and degree courses in microelectronics (eg of one year's duration or its part-time equivalent). Some attention must also be given to the changing needs of BEd and PGCE courses.

The strategy recognised existing work including that the BBC is preparing such a package on computing and this will be supported by learning materials developed by the National Extension College. One Open University course is already available and others are in preparation. Commercial publishers are offering book series and some manufacturers are supporting their products with courses.

The Strategy set out that it would implement some of these by offering pump-priming support for the establishment of a regional network of in-service training centres which will arrange the provision of a variety of subject courses. It also set out that the Programme would also liaise with national providers of open learning courses to see if there are benefits to be gained from co-operation.

Regional Support

The Strategy makes it clear that the Programme must build on the foundations of the LEA advisory services but acknowledged that the Science and Technology Regional Organisations (SATROS) and bodies like Computers in Education as a Resource (CEDAR) and Microcomputer Users in Secondary Education (MUSE) would also have a part to play.

It proposed to:

set up a network of pilot information centres serving groups' of LEAS. It is intended that these should serve the same catchment areas as the network of regional training centres, and it will be for groups of LEAs to propose collaborative arrangements which are geographically and demographically appropriate; to agree on the location of the centre for their region; and to formulate appropriate proposals for the management of the centres.

The responsibilities of the centres were to:

i) exchange information, materials and computer software with the other regional centres in the network;

ii) exchange information and materials with in-service training centres within the region;

iii) form links with LEA advisory services in their area and with SATROS;

iv) provide some facilities for in-service training, eg in general awareness and such specialist topics as may be appropriate;

v) provide an information service to the region covering: materials and equipment available, places where they may be seen, evaluations of materials and equipment, known developments in teaching materials etc, a small collection of reference texts and any publications specially prepared for the centres, a software library

vi) keep in touch with curriculum development projects within the region so that the network can be kept informed;

vii) disseminate software developed by regional curriculum development groups and by individual schools and user groups;

viii) provide access to any "debugging" facilities required for computer programs;

ix) organise local group sessions and individualised support for those teachers following distance learning programmes;

x) form links with manufacturers of hardware and employers making use of microelectronics to aid their business.

The Strategy set out that the Council for Educational Technology would work with the LEAs to form regions of between four and ten LEAs. The Programme to provide pump-priming support for these regional information centres.

The Provision of Microcomputers for Schools

The provision of equipment for general use in individual schools fell outside the Programme's scope. However the Strategy did refer to the DTI:

To complement the Programme, however, and also with a view to providing added opportunities for the UK microcomputer industry, the Department of Industry is to make funds available to assist local education authorities with the provision of microcomputers in secondary schools; the aim is that every secondary school will have direct access to at least one microcomputer by the end of 1982.

the aim is that every secondary school will have direct access to at least one microcomputer by the end of 1982.

Under this scheme the Department of Industry will match funds provided locally towards the purchase of a microcomputer package for eligible schools. LEAs wishing to take advantage of the scheme will be responsible for finding the matching contributions and it is hoped that in addition to drawing on their own resources they will be able to look to schools and PTAs and local industry for assistance in raising funds.



Fothergill R., 1981, Microelectronics Education Programme: The Strategy, Department of Education and Science, London: