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This has become the usual abbreviation in Britain for what is known formally as the National Grid for Learning, a massively ambitious initiative to connect all 32,000 schools to the Internet by 2002; the objective is to give all 450,000 teachers and nine million pupils access, and to provide every child over the age of nine with an email address. Development is well under way, with a series of interconnecting educational Web sites already set up. These offer teacher training, curriculum material and access to services such as libraries and databases. The cost will be £1bn, which includes £235m for teacher training in IT, taken from the proceeds of the National Lottery.

The name perhaps requires explanation. In the 1930s, electricity companies in Britain built a national network of high-voltage transmission lines to connect power stations with consumers. This was called the National Grid, a term that was afterwards used in other parts of the world. The new initiative borrowed that name (though everybody is abbreviating it to Grid), even though this has confused some people into thinking it is a separate network of actual cabling, when it is really an Internet access initiative.

What surprised me most was the extent to which the internet — the Government’s much-spun National Grid for Learning — has penetrated the classroom. Almost every school has a Web page; and hundreds more can be accessed from all over the world.

Daily Telegraph, January 2000

The Grid will allow computer users to assess almost unlimited amounts of information from a central computer network without the complication of time-consuming searches of the internet or having to download information onto their own computers.

Guardian, Education Section, March 2000

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 3 Jun. 2000

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 3 June 2000.