Department for Education
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Free laptops and broadband for 270,000 families across the country in ground-breaking scheme

- Research shows pupils could improve by two grades at GCSE with a computer at home

- Unemployed parents say having the internet has helped them apply for jobs and get better skills 

The Prime Minister and Ed Balls will today announce the national roll out of a ground-breaking scheme to give 270,000 low income families a free computer and free broadband access, under a major drive to close the digital and educational divide between rich and poor and help keep parents in touch with their child's progress.

The announcement comes as Cabinet Ministers host international Ministers at the annual Learning and Technology World Forum, representing 1 billion children in the world, along with other leaders in technology and learning. The UK now leads the world in technology for education. UK education and skills exports are worth around £28billion annually, making the UK a world leader in meeting the accelerating demand in this dynamic sector.

The £300m investment in the Home Access programme will help make England one of the first countries in the world to ensure young people can use a computer and the internet at home for their education, and get parents better involved and understanding more about what their child does at school.

Studies show that 81 per cent of parents think having internet access at home has helped this – and increased parental engagement is proven to boost attainment at school. The Government is currently legislating to make reporting to parents online by 2012 a legal guarantee in the Children, Schools and Families Bill. Home Access computers are also loaded with a suite of software to support literacy and numeracy for all the family.

From today families with children in years 3 – 9 (approximately age 7 – 14), who are entitled to free schools meals, will be able to apply for a grant to buy a computer and broadband connection from an approved supplier, after meeting strict eligibility criteria. Looked after children up to the age of 18 will also receive laptops, and the scheme will offer bespoke packages to provide more support for children with special educational needs.

The programme is being rolled out nationally after successful pilots in Oldham and Suffolk showed a positive impact on both the pupils and their parents:

. On average, children who received computers from the Home Access programme spent an hour more per week for learning online, compared to their classmates who already had the internet at home

. 81 per cent of parents believed that home access had increased their involvement in their child’s learning – and increased parental engagement is proven to improve children’s educational attainment

. 81 per cent of parents (94 per cent in black and ethnic minority groups) said home access would improve their confidence in using technology

. 89 per cent of parents in Oldham and 69 per cent in Suffolk felt it would help them with their skills development

. Parents reported using their Home Access computer to access public services online, and to also look for work.

A recent study from the Institute of Fiscal studies also showed that having a computer at home could lead to a two grade improvement in one subject at GCSE.

Gordon Brown announced the programme in 2008. The Prime Minister today said:

“I believe everyone should benefit from new advances in technology. It's right that we break down any barriers to social mobility in order to give more children and families the opportunity to complete coursework, conduct research and apply for jobs online.

“This initiative means families can come together, learn together and reap the rewards together. Helping children succeed in school and get the skills they need will set them on the right track to get good quality jobs in the future."

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls said:

“Families who are most in need cannot be left behind in the digital revolution we’re seeing in education. We’re leading the world with the way we use technology in learning and we’ve shown our commitment to this by making ICT the backbone of every lesson in the new primary curriculum. Because of this, it’s absolutely right that we’re investing £300 million so children who need the most support have access to the resources they need at home.

“Being online at home provides educational, economic and social benefits that cannot be ignored. We estimate that around one million children are without the internet at home, and it’s clear they are at a disadvantage to their peers. Computers are no longer a luxury for the few, but are as essential a part of education as books, pens and paper.

“This ground breaking new offer to the most in need families goes much further than just helping children get ahead at school. More than 8 out of ten parents involved in the pilot said getting online at home improved their confidence in using technology, and many reported using their new laptop to access public services and to look for work. This is all about making sure no child is left behind because of their background, getting parents more involved in their child’s learning, and helping them get the skills they need to get back into employment or training.”

Chief Executive of Becta Stephen Crowne said:

“The benefits of technology are clear, but it is vital that children are not excluded from access to technology – whether at school or, just as importantly, in the home. The Home Access programme seeks to support this aspiration, by offering this opportunity to more families.

“Technology is opening up the world of learning to parents, helping them gain a greater understanding of how their child’s school works, as well as improving the dialogue between parents, learners and the school. We hope that more parents and children will exploit the opportunity to further engage with their children’s learning and with their children’s school.”

The attainment gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their peers, achieving five or more GCSEs, has narrowed by 6.8 percentage points since 2002, and it continues to narrow.

But Ministers say the divide is still too great, which is why the Government is using interventions such as Home Access, guaranteeing one to one tuition for pupils falling behind, along with tried and tested programmes like Every Child A Reader to help meet the commitment of narrowing the gap further by 2011.

While having the internet at home offers huge opportunities for young people, online safety is an issue of growing importance for parents and families who rightly have concerns about what their children see and do online. To keep children safe, the Prime Minister recently launched the first ever internet safety strategy. In line with this, all Home Access computers undergo rigorous security testing. Each come with pre-set parental controls and are loaded with a copy of the award winning e-safety guide ‘Know IT All for Parents”. All computers will also have a pre-set homepage which includes the CEOP ‘report abuse’ button. Online safety will also become a compulsory part of the primary curriculum from 2011.

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has also today announced a pilot scheme for new IT courses to give thousands of adults the skills and confidence they need to get on with technology. This programme will be backed up by the increased access to technology for families through the Home Access offer.

Editor's Notes
This press notice relates to 'England'

1. Eligibility for the Home Access Grant is based on the Free Schools Meal criteria which means that applicants can apply if they are registered for Free School Meals or if they receive one of the qualifying benefits (income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit but not Working Tax Credit and an income of less than £16,040, income-based Employment Support Allowance or the Guaranteed element of the Pension Credit). Applicants will also have to meet the other eligibility criteria, namely:

. They have a child in years 3-9;
. They attend a state-maintained school in England or have their place paid for by an English LA or DCSF;
. They have not benefited under HA or CfP in the past.

Carers and foster parents for Looked After Children in school years 1 to 13 are likely to also be eligible for Home Access.

2. From today, parents will be able to ring to request an application form for a Home Access grant. If they meet strict eligibility criteria, they will then receive a pre-loaded debit card to spend on one Home Access computer and one broadband connection per family for one year. These are available from a list of approved suppliers. The general public will also be able to purchase Home Access kits from retailers, so parents can be sure that the laptops they buy are fully security checked, are safe and have all of the software needed to support learning.

3. Becta undertook a pilot of the Home Access programme in Oldham and Suffolk Local Authorities. Certain low-income families were able to apply for a Home Access Grant. The pilot has illustrated considerable interest amongst families to gain access at home to support their children’s learning. Over 12,000 grants were awarded to eligible families.

4. The Learning and Technology World Forum is taking place at the QEII conference centre from 11th – 13th January 2009. It is one of the largest gatherings of education and skills ministers in the world and the only forum which brings together key leaders to share their ideas and experiences on the strategy, policy and delivery of learning in all its contexts. It is now seen as the premier international event on learning technologies. This week some 70 ministers and more than 750 education and skills leaders representing 80 countries including India and China, will be in London to attend the Learning and Technology World Forum (LATWF). Representatives from India, China, Russia, Japan, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Finland, Sri Lanka, Croatia and Turkey will be attending the conference this week - representing more than 50 per cent of learners around the world - more than one billion young people.

5. The Institute of Fiscal studies report can be found here: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/RRP/u015337/index.shtml
6. For more information visit http://www.becta.org.uk/homeaccess or contact the DCSF press office on 0207 925 6789.

Contact Details
Public Enquiries 0870 000 2288, info@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

 

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