Home Access pilot scheme is rolled out

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Home internet access increased by more than 50 per cent between 2007 and 2008, but a third of families in the UK still do not have access to the internet and more than one million children lack access to a computer at home.

In a bid to help bridge this digital divide across England, Home Access - the first Government backed scheme of its kind - has been created to provide computers and broadband internet access to disadvantaged families for educational purposes.

Led by Schools Minister Jim Knight and driven through a partnership between the Government, private and voluntary sectors, the aim of the £300 million programme is to provide every child in full time education between the ages of five and 19 with a cost effective Information Technology and broadband package in their home. This programme will make England one of the first countries in the world where every young person will be able to use a computer and internet at home for their education.

The programme primarily targets families that are financially struggling to provide IT and communications for their children, as well as parents who may have internet access but do not use the technology for their child’s benefit; can afford access but do not think technology has educational value; or cannot afford home access or need support in obtaining it.

Two pilot schemes were successfully rolled out in Oldham and Suffolk between February and August 2009; reaching two areas which have a significant number of low income families. Hundreds of families applied for the Home Access Grant, worth around £600, to pay for a computer and internet package which is specifically designed to support a child’s learning. Purchasing of the laptop and associated technology was controlled though a Visa card that is credited with the appropriate value, which is then accepted by retailers taking part in the scheme. Families are also provided with parental controls and an e-safety guide, as well as benefiting from a high level of service, support and enhanced warranty, from the associated suppliers.

Len Daniels, education sales manager at Toshiba said: “This scheme offers huge advantages to children who might otherwise miss out on learning opportunities offered by IT. Technology is no longer a luxury, exclusive facility; it is vital for providing a good education, as it gives children access to a breadth of information, encouraging different methods of learning and enabling them to explore new ideas and information. IT can also aid inclusion, and help children who struggle with presentation or have learning difficulties such as dyslexia.

“Every child should have equal access to educational tools and this new initiative should provide a more level playing field for children whatever their families’ financial situation."

The pilot schemes has helped the Government to refine and test the process for awarding grants for computing packages to low income families, before the current national roll out, with the aim to have universal home access by 2011.

“The national roll out of the programme will enable children to access modern learning facilities, enabling them to attain higher grades in school and ultimately helping the next generation to step into better jobs and step out of the poverty that many are still living in.  It will also encourage them to develop essential IT skills, which the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has claimed are vital to the country’s economic recovery and competitiveness during the digital revolution,” said Len Daniels.

Digital Learning