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Government pledges £30m to get pupils online

At BETT 2008, the government fleshed out its scheme to help pupils from low-income families gain home broadband access
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Written by Tim Ferguson on

The government has pledged £30m of funding over the next three years to help school pupils from low-income families gain home broadband access.

The plan will allow pupils to access school work and resources — enabling the download and storage of homework, for example — and get feedback from teachers at home.

In his speech at education technology show BETT 2008, minister for schools and learners Jim Knight said: "We have the highest levels of embedded technology in classrooms in the European Union and one computer for every three pupils. The next step is home access for all."

Knight warned the digital divide cannot be allowed to "reinforce social and academic divisions". "We have to find a way to make access universal, or else it's not fair," he said.

In addition, Knight announced a £600,000 pilot — to be run by government education technology agency Becta and a number of industry players — to lower the cost of IT hardware and connectivity for deprived groups.

The pilot — which will also inform parents of the benefits of home computing — will cover 50 schools in Birmingham, the London borough of Brent, Stockton and Worcestershire, with involvement from Dell, Intel, PC World and RM.

The work also includes a 12-week public consultation on who should pay for access and a study looking at the potential impact of technology on children's lives up to 2025.

Knight also fleshed out plans to bring in online school reports, which he expects to be available in all secondary schools by 2010, and all primary schools two years later.

These reports will go beyond traditional annual reports by allowing parents to securely access frequently updated information on their children's progress, attendance, behaviour and special needs.

Other potential methods of delivery include text alerts, emails and videoconferencing.

Knight said technology could break down barriers between teachers and hard-to-reach parents from deprived social groups, deepening relations between schools and parents.

However, Knight said such technology usage would not be a substitute for regular personal contact between teachers and parents.

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