Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Pupils get home internet access

boy using PC at home
Ministers say pupils need internet access at home as well as school

The government is to set up a taskforce to ensure all children have access to the internet outside school.

The government says more than 800,000 children and young people in England are currently not online at home and wants to close the "digital divide".

The home access taskforce, chaired by Schools Minister Jim Knight, will look at how government, the IT industry and education charities can work together.

Mr Knight outlined his plans at the Bett educational technology show.

The government wants to ensure pupils have internet access either at home or though after-schools clubs and extended schools.

The announcement of a taskforce follows an initial internal study last autumn by Intel, Dell and RM, which concluded that universal access could be made possible through partnership between government, private and voluntary sectors.

'Sustainable solution'

Mr Knight told the Bett show in London's Olympia: "The so-called digital divide cannot be allowed to create and reinforce social and academic divisions.

"We need to come up with a sustainable solution which will work for future generations as well as this one, building on existing good practice rather than looking for a quick fix.

Computer room
The government says it is investing heavily in school technology

"I am setting up a home access taskforce which I will personally chair.

"I want this to bring together key industry players, the voluntary sector, and education representatives to look at the issues, because ICT at every child's fingertips is not the be-all and end-all of our ambitions."

The government says its spending on school information and technology equipment has risen six-fold since 1998 - from £112m to £801m this year.

By 2008, the Department for Education and Skills says it will have invested over £5bn in "state-of-the-art" technology for schools.

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