*Warning signal to schools using Wi-Fi
BY KATHRYN TORNEY EDUCATION CORRESPONDENT
ktorney at belfasttelegraph.co.uk
PARENTS should be allowed to withdraw their children from wireless
computer network areas within Northern Ireland's schools, a teaching
union has claimed.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has challenged the
government's position that there is no risk to pupils in schools from Wi-Fi.
ATL director Mark Langhammer commented said: "A safety-first approach
would oblige governors and education employers to monitor and report on
Wi-Fi provision in schools.
"It could allow for parents to withdraw their children from Wi-Fi areas
of the school and it would oblige government to test and measure, based
on biological, as well as thermal criterion."
A Lisburn school principal has already disconnected his school's Wi-Fi
equipment after a parent approached him about health concerns linked to
Ian Thomson, from Ballinderry Primary, said: "The PTA member was
concerned about the possible adverse effects of the radiation produced
by the Wi-Fi equipment.
"I wondered if the advantages of Wi-Fi outweighed the risks to the
children and staff. I looked at evidence from both sides and have
decided not to use this new technology in our school at present."
Professor *Olle Johansson*, one of the world's leading experts on the
effects of Wi-Fi addressed politicians at Stormont on Tuesday.
Dr Johansson, who lectures at Sweden's Nobel prize-winning Karolinska
Institute in Stockholm, featured in the controversial BBC Panorama
programme "Wi-Fi: A Warning Signal".
During his presentation at Stormont, he raised the possibility of health
risks from Wi-Fi for children and staff in schools.
Voice, a union for education professionals, has called on the government
to commission a full scientific investigation into the effects of
wireless technology in schools.
Walter Graham, a local campaigner who invited Professor Johansson to
Northern Ireland, is concerned about radiation being introduced to schools.
He said: "As a parent of two children at different schools, I find it
quite surprising that I have never been informed that Wi-Fi was being
installed in their classrooms and of any possible dangers associated
with the technology."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said: "The welfare and
safety of children and staff in school is paramount. The Health
Protection Agency (HPA) has consistently advised that it does not
consider there to be a problem with the safety of wireless computer
"The HPA announced in October 2007, that it will conduct a systematic
programme of research over a period of two years which will include the
investigation of levels of exposure from WiFi networks. The Department
will monitor the progress of the HPA programme of research.
"Classroom 2000 (C2k) does not currently use WiFi for widespread
connectivity of its equipment but has supported schools in limited
deployment. WiFi is likely to be used in more schools as ICT use for
teaching and learning expands.
"Best advice at present indicates that the risk to health from WiFi
radiation is very low and that WiFi equipment satisfies international
guidelines," said the spokeswoman.
From Mast Sanity/Mast Network