Youngsters get online

A DRIVE to give disadvantaged children free computer and Internet access was launched in Ipswich today.Suffolk is one of only two pilot areas for the government scheme.

A DRIVE to give disadvantaged children free computer and Internet access was launched in Ipswich today.

Suffolk is one of only two pilot areas for the government scheme.

Suffolk county councillor Jeremy Pembroke visited Parkside Referral Unit in Spring Road, where he linked up with Schools minister Jim Knight while he launched the project in London.

The Home Access to Technology programme will begin in February with two year-long pilot schemes in Oldham and Suffolk.

Grants will be provided to allow families to buy an “approved home access package” which will include a computer or laptop, basic software and broadband access for one year.

The £300million initiative was announced by the prime minister at the Labour party conference last month and is intended to help ensure every child has access to a computer and the internet for their school or college work.

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Ministers hope the initiative will help to close the achievement gap between those from rich and poor backgrounds.

The programme will be rolled out nationally next autumn with every five to 19-year-old in England having internet access by 2011.

Mr Knight has previously said that around 35 per cent of families have no internet access.

IT suppliers will be invited to apply for approved supplier status, with those given the go-ahead announced in January.

All local authorities will be able to submit proposals for additional funding for specific vulnerable groups.

Steven Crowne, chief executive of the government's technology agency Becta, which is leading the drive, said: “There's no question that technology plays an increasing part of our everyday life at home and school.”

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