PARENTS face new fees for internet access at government schools from next year, principals have warned.Some frustrated schools have already started forking out tens of thousands of dollars a year to supplement their basic internet access provided free by the State Government - as they say it is grinding to a halt.
And with the Government to this year roll out a new, faster internet system to cope with surging demand, principals warn parents could be hit.
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Victorian Association of State School Principals president Frank Sal yesterday revealed discussions were under way on funding of the improvements and that parents could end up paying for extra services in 2014.
The Education Department was reviewing its policy of providing free internet access to schools, he warned.
He said schools would not be able to absorb extra costs. "The department is looking at charging schools for internet provision," he said.
"If in 2014 they no longer cover all the costs of internet provision then some of those costs will necessarily have to be passed on by schools to parents."
The improvements were desperately needed, he said, with internet access so bad that one school went without it during classes for four days in a row last year.
A spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon, Ashley Gardiner, did not comment on whether charges might be introduced in future to cover increased costs of an improved internet access program.
He said the Education Department provided all government schools with filtered internet access for free.
Paying privately to increase bandwidth was not encouraged by the Department of Education, the principal said.
But slow internet access was the greatest source of teacher frustration, he said.
"The infrastructure is just too slow and it's too unreliable," the principal said.
Australian Education Union state president Meredith Peace said schools regularly raised concerns about internet bandwidth.
Victorian Principals' Association deputy president Glenn Butler said there was a lot of variation in information and communications technology infrastructure across government schools.
"Many Victorian Government primary schools report that they have insufficient bandwidth to meet the technological requirements for student learning," he said.
"Schools' networks quickly become overloaded when all students are trying to do their literacy and numeracy learning using wireless devices."
Mr Gardiner said: "Schools make decisions at a local level regarding the best way to use ICT (information and communications technology) in the curriculum.
"Schools may charge for internet use only if they have incurred a cost and it's for student use outside the standard curriculum program."
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