E-learning Foundation fears gap between rich and poor at school will widen unless more get home internet access
More than one million children in Britain live in homes without computers and a further two million have no internet connection at home, a charity said yesterday).
The e-Learning Foundation said it feared the gap between rich and poor pupils’ performance at school would widen unless more was done to ensure that every child can use a computer at home.
The charity works with teachers and parents to enable children without home computers to borrow them, or their families to buy them.
It found that the poorest families in the country were two-and-a-half times less likely to have an internet connection at home than the richest ones.
The charity analysed a survey of family spending in Britain, published by the Office for National Statistics last year. The study found that 75% of households had a home computer and 71% had an internet connection, a rise of three and five percentage points respectively on 2008.
In the richest 10% of homes, 98% had a home computer and 97% had internet access, but in the poorest 10% of homes only 38% had a home computer and 30% an internet connection.
Connection to the internet was lowest in Northern Ireland, where 57% of homes could log on, and highest in the south-east and London, where 72% of homes could access the internet.
Valerie Thompson, chief executive of the foundation, said children without computers and with no internet access at home were at a “tangible disadvantage” when it came to completing homework, pursuing their interests and researching topics for school. “Without the use of a computer and the ability to go online at home, the attainment gap that characterises children from low-income families is simply going to get worse,” she said.
One of the first acts of the education secretary, Michael Gove, was to announce that Becta, a quango that helped schools choose the most suitable technology, was to close.
The government said schools were best placed to make decisions about the resources they needed on their own.
Gove has cut £100m from a “harnessing technologyfund” that paid for new computers and broadband connections in schools. T The extent of the gap between rich and poor pupils was highlighted this month when government statistics showed 58.5% of pupils not eligible for free school meals achieved five A* to C grades this summer, including in English and maths, compared with 30.9% of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals. The gap – 27.6 percentage points – has only slightly closed over five years. In 2005, it stood at 28.1 percentage points.
Pupils in the most wealthy parts of the country were almost twice as likely to achieve five A* to C grades, including English and maths, as their peers in the poorest parts of the country.
Some 74.6% of pupils in the richest 10% of areas achieved five A* to C grades, including English and maths, compared with 35.8% of pupils in the poorest 10% of areas. The gap has narrowed by 3.1 percentage points on last year. A report commissioned by Becta last year found having a computer at home could enable children to improve their GCSE results by as much as two grades.