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 624.

    In a few years we will no doubt all have a data sim implanted in our brains at birth, and this will no longer be an issue.

  • Comment number 623.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    How is the price of internet access ridiculous I just took a quick look and can see unlimited BB for £6.50 per month on top of phone line rental that most people pay anyway. That equates to one half-decent family meal and is a bargain to open up a wonderful world of learning.

    People who are disparaging of the www may well just be looking at the wrong bits of it, knowing where to go is critical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    I would like to thank the beeb for letting me declare myself officially mad.
    Can i become a bishop and endow free internet access to everyone regardless of wealth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    Comment number 559. Indication
    So now it is expected that poor people should get a free computer and internet connection?

    Next week it'll be about poor people not owning cars and that the taxpayer should buy them all cars and petrol.
    It's called motability for some

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    MPs lie, all the time, for their own gain. Most people will struggle to find anyone who disagrees with that.
    Why then do we:
    a) let them run things, like education
    b) vote for them
    c) listen to a word they say
    There are no excuses for Britain not having countrywide, top-speed, cheap broadband. except countrywide, low-speed, cheap politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    "Back to school for the lot of you"

    Unnecessary, provided of cou’se that they have internet access?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    614. Bastiat
    Freedom = free markets

    Wen't down the stow market today, one of the longest street markets in the UK, they assured me. I said 'Whats free', they assaulted me.
    What are you on about, free markets?

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    It is interesting to see the number of comments here that misuse apostrophes (or just omit them) as if they didn't matter at all, e.g., 'support their childs education needs'; 'is damaging our childrens minds'. Where did these people (adults, presumably) learn to write English? Back to school for the lot of you, THEN you can start uploading your comments on this educational issue. See Lynne Truss!

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    8. WestSussexVillan wrote: I think that it is fair to say that the biggest influence on a child's success in education is the parent's involvement with their children; and income has very little to do with this.


    It has a HUGE amount to do with it if the parents are working two jobs each and all hours to make ends meet.

    I suspect you haven't the foggiest what that feels like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    609 Gideon Osborne
    Tax everyone, 75% Hollande style. No, wait... 100% North Korea style! Brothers, comrades, we'll right the wrongs & reallocate the means of production. We'll prosper & show those capitalists that the average lot of us will be superior to their greedy ways.
    Now, wake up, & be thankful you didn't live in East Berlin while your family were in West Berlin :D
    Freedom = free markets

  • Comment number 613.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    607. Bastiat

    587. paulmerhaba
    Oh Comrade, embarrassed to have your red colours on display? Have read any Orwell :P
    Red colors, my God man don't you know I am a Man U fan, they are the greatest examples of individualism you could find, winning and scoring and defending bonuses, your nirvana.

  • Comment number 611.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.





  • Comment number 609.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    Far too much of a child's education is dependent on homework & home study & for those with a disruptive home environment the outcome is underachievement both in learning & employment.
    Quite simply; children spend far too little time in an educational environment to the detriment of those in greatest need of support & training.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    We'll be buying stranger's kids WiFi possibly? Where does it end? Look after your own kids. You shouldn't be taxed so that you can better do it :)
    Next we'll be told they need XBoxes which go online too to help the social skills.

    587. paulmerhaba
    Oh Comrade, embarrassed to have your red colours on display? Have read any Orwell :P

    588. All for All
    Democracy is the tyranny of the majority. Period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Once upon a time only the very wealthiest could afford books, everyone else was disadvantaged. Then first came public libraries and then after cheap books. It levelled the field, but for children who didn't live near libraries or whose parents refused to value or buy books, they were still out in the cold. The internet can be almost everywhere and offers access to learning for everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Before i was officially mad, I wanted the latest house, the best job, the bestest ever internet connection ( just to stay on topic) and to be a singing, golfing, football player who can say 'you know' on every interview.
    Now i just want to be ordinary.


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