SCHOOLS in Wear Valley are at the heart of a multi-million pound project which 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 information and communication technology (ICT) project.

The schools will receive about £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 Local Education Authority, is one of three in the country to pilot the four-year scheme.

It is hopedthe 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 schools.

The 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 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 whole county.

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

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