Page last updated at 10:37 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

More studying 'on home computers'

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education and family

Pupils may not use computers at school as much as those at home

Pupils are more likely to use computers for their schoolwork at home on a daily basis than they are to use them every day at school, according to a survey.

A study carried out in the UK for technology company Microsoft showed 37% of secondary pupils used computers for study every day at home.

This is a more intensive use than at school - where 30% of pupils were using computers each day.

The survey considered the computer use of 512 families with children.

The study reveals the increasingly pervasive use of technology for homework by pupils in their own homes.

Playing on the computer

Among these secondary level pupils, aged between 11 and 18, more than 90% used a home computer for schoolwork at least once a week.

And more than a third were using their family's computer for homework or revision every single day.

There have been concerns about the "digital divide" - in which children from better-off families get an advantage in school from better computer equipment at home.

The government says there are about a million children without the internet at home - leaving them at the other end of the scale from the two in five pupils who are using computers at home every day for schoolwork.

As well as using computers for homework, they have become a major feature of leisure time - identified by 71% of young people as being among their favourite activities.

Parents also use computers as a leisure activity - but at a lower level than their children - with 65% saying it was one of their favourite activities.

There is also a strong belief among parents that having a computer at home is valuable to their children's education.

'Essential as pen and paper'

Microsoft's Ray Fleming suggests that the higher levels of computer use at home for schoolwork by pupils is a reflection of the limitations on computer use in school.

Young people say computer use is one of their favourite activities

"School use of information technology can be very scheduled - it's often structured around particular lessons," he says.

At home children look for information on the computer in a more informal way, he says.

And he forecasts that this trend for studying at home with a computer will increase.

"There is an increasing blurring between learning-time and leisure-time and so computers in the home are becoming as important as those in the classroom," he says.

The widespread availability of computers at home also raises questions about handling this information.

"There are so many sources of information, that the challenge now is not about finding information but finding the most useful questions," he says.

Earlier this month the government announced a £300m Home Access scheme to give a laptop to 270,000 low income families and free broadband access.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said that being without the internet at home leaves pupils "at a disadvantage to their peers".

"Computers are no longer a luxury for the few, but are as essential a part of education as books, pens and paper."

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