04 July 2007
WIRELESS internet technology in schools should be suspended and an “open and honest debate” on the issue should take place, an influential [Tottenham] council committee has recommended.
The call was made by councillors after months of debate on the issue, which has focused on Tetherdown School.
Anti-wi-fi campaigners, who made a presentation to overview and scrutiny members, were delighted by the outcome.
Sarah Purdy, who has fronted a campaign against wi-fi and mobile phone masts near schools, said: “I’m pleased. I hope the executive will approve the recommendations and I hope Tetherdown will take note while they can and get some cabling in the school.”
Concerned parents last month appealed to the governors of Muswell Hill’s Tetherdown School not to install wireless internet in a new building because of the possible health risks.
Despite objections during consultation on the plans, the school decided to press ahead with the wireless networks, which links computers using pulsed radiowaves in a similar way to mobile phones and phone masts.
Campaigners cited a recent Panorama programme in which Sir William Stewart, chairman of the Health Protection Agency (HPA), suggested potential health risks should be reviewed.
Councillor Emma Jones (Labour), Bruce Grove, said: “I, quite frankly, think we are frying children’s brains. I’m really worried we going to wake up in 20 years with serious problems.”
Mrs Purdy added: “We really don’t know what we are doing to them.”
Ian Bailey, deputy director of the children’s and young people’s services, made clear he was not at the meeting to advocate wi-fi technology.
He said: “A fairly cursory five minutes spent on the internet will reveal there is an awful lot on contradictory advice available.”
He added: “Since the well-known Panorama documentary we have kept track of the advice that’s been issued but the advice of the HPA has not changed since soon after the documentary.”
The committee recommended the council should write to all schools notifying them of the council’s concerns, suspend wi-fi use and installation, host an open seminar on the issue, promote hard wired internet, consult parents over installation and only switch wi-fi on when it’s needed.
Councillor David Winskill (Liberal Democrat, Crouch End), said: “There are genuine questions and concerns over the use of wi-fi in Schools. Up to now we have had to rely on spin from the IT and telecoms industries.
“A properly organised, neutral seminar will at least give head teachers and governors the opportunity to make choices and decisions based on the best available information and advice.”
The proposals must now be approved by the council’s cabinet.
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