Schools face millennium bug meltdown, says union

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The Independent Online
SCHOOLS FACE chaos because local authorities have failed to check systems for the millennium bug, a survey published today suggests.

Teachers could go unpaid, pupils' records lost and school budgets frozen because of council computer breakdown, the National Union of Teachers warns.

A snapshot survey of 16 local authorities found only seven had tested to ensure that school computer systems would operate in 2000. Another five could give no assurances that their central computers would work.

Local government leaders dismissed the claims, however, saying that Audit Commission surveys had found that councils were making progress towards solving likely problems.

Schools are heavily reliant on computers to manage their budgets and affairs and increasingly use sophisticated systems to monitor results and even keep track of registers and attendance at each class.

Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, warned that vandals and thieves could have an open day in up to a third of schools because security systems are linked to local authority computers. "Too often local authorities said they were planning to or considering the possibility of doing something; but not a lot," he said. "With just one year to go to the year 2000, planning ... should be over and have been replaced by action."

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said that year 2000 problems were concentrated in small councils. Local education authorities were making good progress, he said, but schools also had a responsibility to make sure their systems were protected.

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