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Pupil premium could be used to address the digital divide

The government's pupil premium, which will give schools an extra £430 a year for students from the lowest-income families, could be used to address the digital divide, the charitable body e-Learning Foundation has said.

"It will be entirely down to the school how they choose to deploy this money, but I hope some will spend it on addressing [this issue]," said Valerie Thompson, e-Learning Foundation chief executive.

The charity runs a scheme which helps families who do not have internet access by providing a 3G dongle, along side a scheme providing laptops to children who do not have home computers. Under the scheme, parents make a small contribution on a regular basis, around £11.50 a month on average, although this varies according to income levels.

About 100,000 are currently taking part in the programme. Previously the body had received £10m in funding from the government, which has now been axed.

Meanwhile PC manufacturers are gearing up to pitch tablet computers to schools.

Craig Booth, commercial manager at Samsung, expects the company's new sliding tablet to be popular with schools using the e-learning parental contribution scheme.

The touchscreen makes it a suitable device for schools, which are using interactive touchscreen technology, but with the benefit of a netbook for doings things like coursework, said Booth. "It's not that we are trying to drive technology in schools, it's technology they are starting to use," he added.

"Tablets are just the next generation schools are looking for, we know the demand is there. For example. nine out of 10 of our enquiries under the parental contribution scheme recently were for our Galaxy tablet."

However, Thompson warned that some tablets used under the scheme in the past did not prove robust enough to "survive a teenager".


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