Free laptops for poor families

The government is handing out free laptops and broadband to 270,000 families across the UK, in a bid to close the digital and educational divide between the rich and the poor, and to help parents keep in touch with their children.

Government research shows pupils could improve by two grades at GCSE with a computer at home, and that unemployed parents say having the internet has helped them apply for jobs and get better skills.

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, the government claimed recently.

Families with children in years 3- 9, 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.

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

89% of parents in Oldham and 695 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.

Gordon Brown 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.”