Free laptops scheme at risk from parents

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A Becta adviser to the government has voiced concern that a multi-million pound scheme to provide free laptops to pupils could be at risk from parents selling on the computers.

More than half a million children will be eligible for a free laptop under the £300 million Government funded scheme to enable pupils from poor backgrounds to access the internet from home. The scheme will give families a £600 package including a laptop, internet connection for a year and technical support.

Under the scheme, which is being rolled out later this year, families will be limited to two computers per household if they have more than one child.

Niel McLean, executive director of Home Access at Becta, said some parents may be tempted to commit fraud by exchanging the free computers for cash on the black market.

“It’s a risk but we don’t live in a police state and people simply aren’t allowed to go around and look in people’s homes.”

The Government is reliant on teacher monitoring of pupils to make sure they are using the Internet at home.Additionally, parents must sign an agreement that the laptops are only used for educational purposes.

Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, said: “As previous generations may look back fondly on inkwells and fountain pens, today’s children see laptops and memory sticks as their everyday materials for school.”

The Department for Schools aims to make sure all children have Internet in their homes by 2011.


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