A third of poorest pupils 'without internet at home'

Girls doing homework Some 90% of children can access the internet at home official figures suggest

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More than a third of the poorest children do not have the internet at home and a similar number do not have a computer, official figures suggest.

A new breakdown of Office of National Statistics (ONS) data also showed that children from the wealthiest homes all had internet and computer access.

Campaigners say this 'digital divide' can harm poor pupils' education.

Valerie Thompson of the E-Learning Foundation says children without home internet "lose out big time".

She said, at the most basic level, lack of a home internet connection or a computer could mean that children struggled to research homework or complete coursework and were unable to access school websites which allow pupils to submit work digitally and receive feedback from teachers.

Poor access

"These new statistics show the digital divide is still a major issue for this country's young people.

"Poverty is clearly a factor in poor access to digital learning technologies and poor performance at school. The link between the two cannot be ignored."

The latest ONS Family Spending Survey, published last month, analysed the income and expenditure of more than 11,000 households across the UK. The data was collected in 2011.

The charity, E-Learning Foundation, extracted the data on computer ownership and internet access for families with children aged under 18.

Overall, most children (89%) can get on to the internet via a computer at home but according to E-Learning Foundation this figure masks a divide between rich and poor.

The data shows that while 99% of children in the richest 10% of households can access the internet via a computer, this dropped to 57% in the poorest 10% of households with children.

In the poorest households 29% had no computer, 36% had no internet and 43% had no internet connection via a computer.

According to the E-Learning Foundation this translates to a total of 750,000 school age children living in households with no internet, and some 650,000 without a computer.

'Teenagers and Technology'

A book from Oxford University's Department of Education, published this month, highlights the ways in which teenagers without an internet connection feel shut out from their peer group and disadvantaged in their studies.

The authors of Teenagers and Technology also found that parental fears about teenage time-wasting on social network sites were often unfounded with the benefits using digital technologies outweighing perceived risks.

Start Quote

I had to write a story about heaven and I tried to write it in school but it was bell gone and I have a lot of things that I could write and I was angry that I haven't got a computer because I might finish it at home when I've got lots of time to do it. ”

End Quote Sharon, 15 'Teenagers and Technology' Routledge

A 15-year-old interviewed for the book commented "It was bell gone and I have a lot things that I could write and I was angry that I haven't got a computer because I might finish it at home when I've got lots of time to do it."

And a 14-year-old boy talked about how much harder it was to complete coursework without a home computer: "People with internet can get higher marks because they can research on the internet."

He added that he felt cut off from friends because of being unable to access social networks: "My friends are probably on it all day every day and they talk about it at school".

Co-author Rebecca Eynon said: "Behind the statistics, our qualitative research shows these disconnected young people are clearly missing out both educationally and socially."

E-Learning's Valerie Thompson said imaginative use of technology by schools could help overcome the educational disadvantages suffered by children on free school meals, a key indicator of poverty.

"Technology can underpin learning by making it more relevant and personalised," she said.

"It can also help children with special educational needs, particularly those who struggle to cope in a normal, classroom, helping them learn and complete work at their own pace.

"Technology can allow a school to deliver an education to a child wherever they are, not just in a classroom."

She called for the social housing providers such as housing associations and local authorities to install wi-fi connections for tenants, and for schools to use the government's pupil premium for disadvantaged pupils to buy laptops for the poorest.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    The root issue is deeper. There are many parents who choose, or are unable to, support their childs education needs. Sometimes it is for financial reasons, other times it is that they have no quiet place to work, or are not encouraged to focus on schoolwork.

    I found our library essential for homework. It was warm, quiet, and was an environment in which knowledge appeared valued and precious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    The internet is a very valuable resource in the field of education. It is a powerful learning tool and can increase knowledge using a wide variety of tools, methods and systems. This being said, the motivational drive of the "poorest pupils" to gain knowledge in which to gain qualifications which lead to a high paid job, i believe is stronger than that of the privileged due to appreciation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I would prefer my grandkids to join clubs and to mix with people rather than become dependent upon these new life support machines. Proper science \ study clubs would teach a child far more than many of the failed apps on the web.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I am totally confused - on one hand the ONS say that children's educaiton is damaged by not having internet access: and on the other we are being told that computer use and the internet is damaging our childrens minds with access to porn; their health damaged by encouraging a sedentry lifestyle, leading to obeisity; and their education as it leads to a generation of plagurism in higher education!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Like it or not, the Internet has become a necessity in today's world and these pupils are going to be left behind in education which is unacceptable. The answer here is not free broadband for all but better regulation of providers to stop them charging prohibitive fees. The price of Internet access really is ridiculous. Also, we need to stop closing public libraries who offer Internet access.


Comments 5 of 10


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