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 104.

    Our children are our future. A forward thinking society gives all equal opportunities. Technology is our future and therefore where necessary technology should be provided by the state. It would benefit us all in the long run.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    As usual the mind blowing ignorance/smugness of some is unbelievable

    These so called families who are living the life of riley must all live in the SE of England (otherwise the commentors concerned wouldnt know of them - save reading it ;) )

    It was interesting on TV today Dave C said the reason that Families using food banks has exploded 300% lately is that they are better advertised - priceless

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    A school admin told me that some of the poorest parents are happier to spend what they have on drink and fags...there is no helping these types of poor...as all that will happen is they will sell the computer that they are given...very sad

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    'I am always amazed at how Einstein, Da Vinci, Mozart, et al ever managed to do anything without the advantages of the internet'.

    Are you suggesting then the internet has replaced brains? Do you think if had been invented the leading minds of their day would have avoided it? I'd suggest you need to employ what you are championing - your brain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Of course a lot of poor families have no internet or computers. These are expensive goods/services. If they could afford all these things then I would argue they're not poor!

    From a global perspective, a third of the world's poorest children lack access to clean drinking water and food!

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I wonder if the same survey asked how many had personal mobile telephones. People make choices in how they spend what money they have, clearly some do not see internet access and a basic computer as being important, this is more about education than money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    In the real world, if you start off poor you work harder to achieve more with whatever resources are available.

    Even if you have to walk 3 miles to a library

    or EASIER STILL just simply stay behind after school & use school library to do research homework which for 13/14/15 year olds school librarys are OPEN after school

    I was angry that I haven't got a computer

    Twits make me angry

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Wow, this country will never be a world leader in IT based on the comments I am reading here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    #22. johnnybgoode83
    "..we need to stop closing public libraries who offer Internet access."
    Exactly so.

  • 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 94.

    The usual comments attacking the poor are irrelevant. I came from a council house in the 60s when virtually everyone worked, and you had those who cared and those who did not when it came to thier kids. What is not acceptable is poor people who DO want thier kids to get on in life facing an eat, heat or pay for internet situation. Basic benefits should cover this. Agreed booze and bingo not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Children don't need internet access. An adult can learn how to use a computer and the internet with ease. Source: My own life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I agree that all children should have access to the Internet, this should be provided at schools or libraries after formal lessons are complete as the previous respondent said. However I don't think we should provide net access to "poorer homes" as this will then be used by others and I object to paying for recreational access for their parents. Net Acvess is a privilege not a right...

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    how can no internet or computer be described as deprived . surely no food or shoes is deprived . not this frippery . many people have no internet or computers out of choice not necessity .

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Ahhhh so they get free broadband too... next we will be giving them free laptops and free software to access it, free electricity to run it, free desks and free chairs to sit at to use it, Don't worry Britain... you don't need to work, have aspiration or motivation... We are more then happy to give you all these things, you just need to be "poor"... pathetic, misguided and very very unfair!

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    80.Attila the Tory

    "Benefits and the Shameless Society."

    Totally agree, Mp's get free handouts for internet access, the government also spend 3k on laptops that cost £600 quid on the high street. We need to stop handouts to MP's and stop them WASTING our money!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    The internet is part of life if we like it or not. Our school provides children who do not have computers at home with laptops. However, parents have to sign that they will take responsibility for repairs and replacement when damaged at home and beyond repair. Some parents refuse to do so and their children then have to use after school computer clubs or the public library computer room.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    @koolkarmauk #61

    > Prove it.

    Prove it? Go to your local library and access their internet connection to utilise a resource called "google".

    At the time it was being rolled it I was working at an ISP and was tasked with helping them implement a range of technological policies, including this one. Don't let facts get in the way of a good argument though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    @67 Norman Brooke: "The State has a moral duty to provide free or affordable internet access"

    And what moral code is that? Just one you made up on the spot.

    At whose expense will this internet come? What unintended consequences will this have? What market distortions will this create? What will some people go without, so that others get what they want? By what right do you do any of it? etc etc!

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    What the parents perceive as important is what the child will receive. If the pub is important then the child suffers. My view, and it is purely my view, is that access to a computer and the Internet is vitally important. More and more business is carried out electronically in todays age and to not give those children the opportunity to take advantage of this is wrong.... in my opinion


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