Providing children Home Access to technology

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Despite the rapid growth of consumer technology and the increase in internet availability over the past few years, a substantial number of children in the UK still do not have a computer at home and a third of families do not have access to the internet.  This lack of technology in many homes presents a challenge for our next generation as they move through school and into the workplace or continue their learning through the use of ICT.

In September 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a new initiative to ensure that all learners in state maintained education in England would have the opportunity to have access to a computer and the internet in their home.

The Home Access programme, which will be launched nationally in early 2010, supports the aspiration that all families should have access to technology in their homes.  It aims to go some way to ensure that children across England have an equal chance to enhance their learning at home.

By supporting more effective learning, engaging better with the wider community and supporting a thriving economy, the Home Access programme will be help to create better outcomes for children, learners and adults alike.

From school to home
Home Access technology gives pupils from the age of seven the opportunity to engage with their school work beyond the classroom, as well as introducing them to new interests.  Having these tools at home can improve exam results as well as behaviour and motivation within the classroom. 

Schools now need to continue to support this growth and ensure that more families can make the most of these opportunities. The Home Access programme is the Government’s commitment to ensuring that this ambition becomes a reality.

The Home Access programme
The flagship national programme will initially target children in years 3 to 9 and provide funding to over 270,000 households by March 2011. 

Families who meet the eligibility criteria such as receiving free school meals or certain benefits will be able to apply for a grant to purchase a Home Access package. This includes a device such as a laptop or netbook and internet connection.  This is really good news for those families who might otherwise struggle to fund a computer and internet access at home. 

How it works
The appointed Grant Administration Service Provider (Capita) is taking care of marketing the programme, assessing applications and issuing grants.  Becta has approved a range of suppliers where grants (in the form of a restricted use Barclaycard) can be redeemed. These suppliers are working through a range of well known high street retail outlets, by phone and online

The Home Access package is unique and available to any family to buy, not just grant recipients. With one year’s service and support, pre-set parental controls, anti-virus, and a suite of assistive technology software as standard; the Home Access package can benefit the whole family and is extremely good value for money.

The Home Access pilots
Becta ran Home Access pilots in Oldham and Suffolk Local Authorities in 2009.  The pilot exceeded all expectations and awarded over 12,000 grants to families - over 90% of the eligible population within the two authorities.

This resounding success puts the programme in a great position for the national launch.  There is a strong demand from parents for access to a computer at home, and findings from the pilot show that children are spending more time each week using ICT for learning.

Evidence suggests that access to technology can increase attainment and contribute towards improved GCSE results. This can have a major impact on future career prospects.

Schools from the pilot areas also report that more parents are interested in the way they can use technology to help their children. This can only be a good thing – an informed parent is an engaged parent who is able to work in partnership with a school to ensure their child has the most effective education possible.

But it is not just in the classroom where there are benefits. The pilot also revealed increased engagement by parents and carers using ICT access at home to support their own learning, up skilling and employability.

Involving schools
Schools are crucial in supporting the Becta vision of access for all and can play an integral role in ensuring the Home Access programme is a real success.   Home Access will complement and reinforce classroom teaching by offering opportunities for personalisation. Classroom activities can also be built on to enable students to become more engaged and motivated in their studies.

More and more schools are using technology to stimulate better communication with parents. Already 30% of secondary schools and 10% of primary schools offer parents online access to pupil information. This can only be of benefit for all and sets the challenge for all schools to do the same.

As families apply directly to a central body for their grant, schools can make a choice as to their level of involvement. Those schools who wish to take a more active role and potentially look to combine the programme with other work aimed at providing access at home for learners could apply to run an aggregation scheme. It is worth remembering aggregation is optional and families will not miss out if a school chooses not to aggregate.

Schools wishing to run an aggregation scheme must apply before 26th February and will have to be affiliated to the e-Learning Foundation. The e-Learning Foundation is a registered charity who is committed to narrowing the digital divide. It provides advice and support to schools as well as having access to funds to help build wider programmes to include low income families who may not be eligible for a Home Access grants.

Home Access is a really exciting programme which will provide opportunities to promote social inclusion for 270,000 households and even more learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. For Becta, it’s about getting close to the ground and learning the lessons about what really matters to learners. The programme will support learners and their families to ensure they too receive the educational and social benefits that technology can bring.

Further information about the Home Access programme can be found at www


Pilot case study – Murrayfield Primary School engages families with Home Access

Wendy James is the Headteacher at Murrayfield Community Primary School in Ipswich which caters for pupils aged 5 to 11 and as part of the Home Access pilot, has fully embraced the programme. Murrayfield sent letters out to all parents about the programme and also provided support completing the applications forms for those where English wasn’t their first language.  The school also played a key part in identifying and sending out application forms to 49 of the 57 eligible families.  Suppliers also played an active role by visiting the school and demonstrating the Home Access package in action.

Home Access: involving all the family
Home Access supports the school’s aim to provide a strong partnership with the home. Wendy says she is keen to see engagement with parents develop when the learning platform is in place at the school in the next academic year. Murrayfield have introduced ICT classes at the school to help both pupils and their parents get to grips with their new computers and develop a range of ICT skills. By providing ICT classes to the whole family it means they can carry on learning from home and, when the learning platform is live, parents will be able to celebrate and share in their children’s successes.

Internet safety
Online safety is vitally important to Murrayfield, its parents and pupils. To highlight this, the school has arranged visits from internet safety specialists as well as holding events relating to internet safety. As all Home Access packages come pre-loaded with pre-set parental controls and the award winning “Know IT All” guide for parents, this has really helped the school support families stay safe online.

Home Access: helping improve understanding for learners and their families
The Home Access programme has provided Murrayfield with an exciting opportunity to explore the important role that technology can play in pupils’ and families’ everyday lives – both at school and in the home. The school hopes that increased home access to technology will deliver a marked improvement in confidence from both learners and their families.  They are also keen to establish links with the wider community and ensure parents are better informed about their children’s school activities. This means parents will be able to keep up to date with what is going on and with staff much more easily through the learning platform.

“The Home Access programme has provided Murrayfield Community Primary School with an exciting opportunity to explore the important role that technology can play in our pupils’ and families’ everyday lives at home and school.”
Wendy James, Headteacher


e-Learning Update