Open Eye: Now parents can catch up with their kids

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Recognise the scene: you've just lashed out several hundred pounds on an all-dancing, all-speaking pile of computer kit which you need, of course, for those vital household accounts - and before you've even opened the manual your eight-year-old has not only got it up and running, but has set up an e-mail pen pal club with new-found friends all around the globe.

Open Eye readers will recall the story in July about the young pupils at Heronsgate School in Milton Keynes who, from their computer screens, are able to drive a model of a Mars buggy via a wireless Internet link to the offices of the Knowledge Media Institute on the OU campus.

While their parents may have been able only to stand by and watch in awe, now they and other parents stand a good chance of catching up, thanks to a pounds 700,000 grant from the Millennium Commissions under its Millennium Awards scheme.

The award will enable 300 parents in and around Milton Keynes to gain new skills in computing and information technologies, through `Clutch Clubs' - Computer Literacy Understanding Through Community History - at which groups of four to six parents will use school facilities in the evenings to research a local history project, with the findings being presented to the community using multi-media technologies.

Erica Roberts, Director of the awards scheme at the Millennium Commission said: "We are delighted to be working with The Open University on a scheme which will help parents to develop their own skills and become more involved in their children's education and learning.

"The scheme is an excellent opportunity for parents in the Milton Keynes area to do something for themselves, their children, the local school and in fact the whole community. I am sure the production of a local history project will provide Milton Keynes with a valuable momento for the new millennium."

The scheme is being run by the OU in conjunction with The Living Archive, a local documentary arts organisation, will run for three years and will involve 400 schools in the Milton Keynes area, including parts of Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshires.

Professor Tom Vincent, Deputy Director of the OU's Knowledge Media Institute said: "We are delighted with the announcement by the Millennium Commission. The CLUTCH Club concept is an innovative approach that gives parents opportunities to develop skills with the new technologies while at the same time contributing to their children's education and knowledge about the local community."

This is one of five grant-making organisations to receive a grant from the Millennium Commission.

Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture and Chairman of the Millennium Commission, said: "Through these schemes the Millennium Commission is investing in the grass roots of society where people have the energy, passion and commitment to make a difference where it matters most in their community."

The five new organisations, including MENCAP, Deafblind UK, Help the Hospices, and Groundwork, will join the 34 current Award Partners who run schemes covering a variety of themes including civic pride, health, faith and the linking of generations.

By 2004 there will be 100 Millennium Awards schemes benefiting 40,000 people across the UK.