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PC users score better grades

Children who regularly use computers at home perform significantly better in exams than others, even when their family background is taken into account.

A study for the London School of Economics this week discovered that children whose families owned a personal computer gained an average of half a GCSE more than other pupils.

The report's authors noted that children whose families owned cars or dishwashers also had a similar advantage in grades. But they found that, once social and economic factors had been taken into account, PCs were the only machines which led to significantly improved results.

The study was based on a decade of data from the British Household Panel, an annual survey of 10,000 people. The academics found that the time a pupil spent using a computer also seemed to affect their results.

Children who lived in houses with a PC but never used them were 20 per cent less likely to gain a GCSE than pupils in homes without a computer.

Those who used a computer at home three or four times a week had a 10 per cent advantage over others, while those who used a computer "most days" had a 13 per cent advantage.

The researchers noted that pupils who used computers regularly might be more intelligent or motivated than others. However, they found that PC-use seemed to have a noticeable effect even when prior attainment at school had been taken into account.

Jonathan Wadsworth, one of the report's authors, said the findings underlined the importance of tackling the "digital divide" in the UK between those who did and did not own computers.

A separate report this week suggested that four-fifths of children believe pupils in the future will not need to handwrite homework because they will do it on computers. More than half of 1,500 pupils surveyed for printer company Lexmark believed they would also deliver their homework by email or interactive television.

Giovanni Giusti, general manager of Lexmark, said he was surprised many pupils were still handwriting their homework because this approach seemed very "last century".

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