Free computers on offer

PUBLISHED: 17:01 17 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:34 25 May 2010

THOUSANDS of youngsters across North Somerset could soon be given a free computer and internet access as part of a £300million scheme.

THOUSANDS of youngsters across North Somerset could soon be given a free computer and internet access as part of a £300million scheme.

The Government has announced the initiative, aimed at low-income families, will be rolled out from this week.

North Somerset parents can now ring to request an application form for a Home Access grant for pupils in years three to nine.

If they meet strict eligibility criteria, similar to that for free school meals, they will then receive a pre-loaded debit card to spend on one Home Access computer and one broadband connection per family for one year from a list of approved suppliers.

The Government says the scheme aims to close the digital and educational divide between rich and poor and help keep parents in touch with their child's progress.

It has been welcomed by Priory Community School headteacher Neville Coles, who actively encourages the use of computers daily at his Worle campus.

He said: "We are very much in favour of any scheme that makes internet computer technology (ICT) available to more families and students.

"Evidence shows that it improves learning and raises exam grades, although there is no substitute for outstanding reading and writing skills.

"This scheme is a good thing and is about delivering a more socially just society in which every child has ICT access.

"Going a step further it would be great if the whole of Weston and Worle had free access to broadband.

"For parents and carers to influence and engage in the education of their children they need rich, varied and easily-accessible information on the progress, behaviour and attendance of their children."

Priory is launching a new online reporting system to parents later this month where parents will be able to check their child's progress and see if they have arrived in school.

For an application form for a Home Access grant parents need to call a helpline set up especially for the scheme.

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