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Brown offers free laptops to deprived UK schoolkids

Home Access scheme gets national rollout

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Free laptops with broadband access will be dished out to more than a quarter of a million UK households to help kids from cash-strapped families do better in exams, said Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday.

"We want every family to become a broadband family, and we want every home linked to a school. For those finding it difficult to afford this, today I can announce the nationwide rollout of our home access programme to get laptops and broadband at home for 270,000 families," said the PM.

The £300m 'Home Access' project was kicked off by Brown in 2008, but plans to bring the interwebs into the homes of deprived kids have been mulled by the government for years.

Brown said the scheme - which has already been piloted in Oldham and Suffolk - would provide a link for families to access their children's school progress reports on attainment, behaviour and other issues.

The national rollout will be seen by some as a significant step in the right direction.

This time last year the UK government pleaded with the IT industry to help breathe some life into its Home Access programme.

It called on key players in the tech world to cough up cash towards ensuring all school children in England aged five to 19 had a computer and internet access in their homes.

The then schools minister Jim Knight said in January 2009 that Microsoft had created something he described as a “re-investment fund”. The software maker agreed to “commit to fund a foundation in support of the Home Access programme”.

However, Knight didn’t reveal how much cash Microsoft had pumped into the initiative, which has been periodically wheeled out by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) for the past two years.

The initial pilot targeted some 28,000 schoolkids, with tech kit being supplied by the likes of RM, Stone Computers and Positive IT solutions. ®

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