Knight: promote benefits of IT to boost Home Access project

Encourage families in educational use of internet, teachers told

Kerra Maddern

Teachers are being urged to help deprived families obtain free computers and internet broadband to help the children's education.

Jim Knight, the schools minister, was due to tell delegates at the Bett educational technology show in London yesterday that schools had a crucial role to play in the Home Access scheme, which will give up to a million families free equipment.

He said teachers should also promote the educational benefits of information technology to those better-off families which could afford computers and internet access but did not have them.

The Home Access scheme is being piloted in Oldham and Suffolk, where the first families to benefit will start receiving equipment next month. Low-income families with children aged seven to 18 in full-time state education will get financial support and help with the equipment from the local authority.

The project is being overseen by Becta, the Government's educational technology agency, which this week announced seven approved suppliers for the pilot scheme: RM, XMA, Centerprise International, Insight Direct, Misco, Positive IT Solutions and Stone Computers.

Becta is running a wider Next Generation Learning campaign to encourage families' involvement in children's learning using computers, and is urging schools to sign its charter to show their commitment.

The Bett show at Olympia saw the launch of an internet safety system which will also be offered free to families in some areas after trials in schools. Cyber Sentinel, by Forensic Software, tracks pupils' web use and monitors their online chats. A Warwickshire school said it had picked up a case of bullying after teachers noticed a girl had been visiting anti-bullying websites.

A handful of local authorities, including Warwickshire and Telford and Wrekin, now plan to give families their own usernames and passwords so they can download it.

This week also saw the launch of email services for London schools, which could be used by up to a million pupils. The London Mail service has been set up by the London Grid for Learning, a consortium of all London's local authorities.

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Kerra Maddern

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