Education & Family

Tablet computers in '70% of schools'

Tablet computers
Image caption Tablet computers have become more popular within education

Almost 70% of primary and secondary schools in the UK now use tablet computers, according to research.

But the study says there is no clear evidence of academic improvement for pupils using tablet devices.

The study, commissioned by education technology charity Tablets for Schools, looked at a representative sample of 671 state and independent schools.

Many pupils reported that they took an internet-connected device to bed to continue social media conversations.

The rapid growth of tablet computers in the classroom was one of the ways in which the study found that young people are immersed in technology at school and home.

One tablet per pupil

Tablets are now being used, at least to some extent, in 68% of primary and 69% of secondary schools, according to the study headed by Barbie Clarke of the Family, Kids and Youth research group.

But researchers found examples of much more intensive use. In 9% of schools, there was an individual tablet device for every pupil.

Image caption About 70% of young people have access to a tablet computer at home

The highest use of tablet computers was within academy schools - much greater than in independent schools or other types of state schools.

The underlying trend is for an increasing number of tablet computers in schools - among those not using them at present, 45% reported that they would soon be likely to introduce them.

Between 2014 and 2016, the number of tablet computers in schools is expected to rise from about 430,000 to almost 900,000.

But Dr Clarke, formerly of the University of Cambridge's education department, says it is not possible to make a definitive connection between tablet computers and improved results.

Researchers cannot isolate the impact of technology as the specific cause of a rise in attainment.

But Dr Clarke says head teachers reported a positive impact.

And there is evidence that they help to motivate pupils who might otherwise be disengaged - and when pupils take home tablet computers it increases the involvement of families.

Dr Clarke says that the role of technology is going to grow in schools.

"The type of device might change, but it's not going to go away. It will almost seem ridiculous if some of them are not using technology," she said.

Internet addicts

A separate study from the National Literacy Trust and Pearson, published on Monday, suggested that touch-screen computers were particularly useful in helping boys and poorer pupils to learn to read.

It showed children in poorer households were particularly likely to read on touch-screen computers rather than printed books.

The study on tablet computers in schools shows how much online technology is part of everyday life for young people.

Within a sample of schools where every pupil has a tablet computer, a quarter of secondary pupils described themselves as internet "addicts".

About two-thirds took a computer device or smartphone to bed with them, used for social media or watching videos.

Findings earlier this year from Ofcom show how tablets have spread quickly within families with children.

It showed about 70% of five to 15-year-olds had access to a tablet at home.

Simon Mason, head of Honywood Community School in Essex, said it was not possible to say whether results are changed by any individual factor, but he is a strong advocate of tablet computers in schools.

Each pupil has an iPad, which remains the property of the school, but pupils can take them home.

Using these computers, he says, is about making sure that the school is in "the current century and not the last".

The benefits are "difficult to put into league tables", he says. But they create a "sense of empowerment" for young people and create an ethos in which pupils can feel "trusted and valued".

Tablets are preferable to laptops, he argues, more portable, the right size, touch-screen and immediately switched on.

The head says that the use of technology in school also reflects the reality of how pupils live at home and what they will find at work.

"I think it's really important that schools function in the way that the world is," said Mr Mason.