SCHOOLS in Wear Valley are to be at the heart of a multi-million pound project that could revolutionise the education system.

Parkside Comprehensive School,in Willington, its feeder schools and Whitworth Special School in Spennymoor, have been selected for the Government's ICT test bed project.

The schools will receive around £5m of extra equipment in the next year, topped up to £8.5m in the following three years, to test how Information and Communication Technology can raise standards in schools.

The cluster, as part of Durham LEA, is one of just three in the country to pilot the four-year scheme.

It is hoped that the schools will develop new approaches to teaching, learning and management and that ICT will become an integral part of school life. Each teacher will get a laptop computer, every teaching space will have an interactive whiteboard and there will be stronger links between the cluster schools.

Headteacher at Parkside, Roland Sterry said: "I am delighted that Parkside, together with local primary schools and Whitworth Special School, will be taking part in this exciting DfES project.

"It will allow us to develop new approaches to teaching and learning across the curriculum and to streamline our management information systems.

"This project will be of great benefit to youngsters in the Crook and Willington areas.

"At the moment ICT is used to supplement lessons, with these extra resources it can be used as part of them. It could allow pupils to email homework to school and enable video conferencing to speak with pupils abroad in language lessons.

"Technology is becoming more dominant in all walks of life so this could give pupils extra confidence from a young age and will motivate pupils."

Durham County councillor Neil Foster, cabinet member for Education, said the project represents an exciting opportunity for the county.

He added: "It is a great honour that County Durham will provide a possible model for the longer term development of the ICT in schools as a whole."

Feeder schools taking part are Crook, Hartside, Hunwick, Our Lady & St Thomas RCVA, St Cuthbert's RCVA, Sunnybrow, Willington and Willington CE Primary schools.