‘Home Access’ is a UK Government initiative, in England, to provide computers and online access to disadvantaged learners to enable them to have access to online resources and services when outside school. It follows on from the earlier Computers for Pupils (CfP) initiative in which schools, backed by Government funds, provided computers and access to their most disadvantaged learners.
On one level, Home Access is the continuing Government attempt to close, in England, what has become known as the ‘digital divide’. Home Access, like CfP, seeks to provide disadvantaged learners with a ‘taster’ of online access as a means of demonstrating to the learner, their parents or carers, the advantages of online access as an aide to learning. The term, ‘taster’, is used here because, while the computer is expected to have a life of around 3 years, the government initiatives would generally only provide online access for 1 year; the intention, or hope, being that having experienced the benefits for one year, the parents themselves would fund further access.
The digital divide, however, is more than just having or not having internet access from home; it is also about the way in which that access is used. Home Access provides the kit and the connectivity, which is just the first step in closing the divide, it also recognises the further issues surrounding use. It is the provision of hardware, though, which is likely to grab the headlines.
How likely is Home Access to succeed, though? Well, it already has the experience of the Computers for Pupils initiative to build upon, it has run pilot programmes in Oldham and Suffolk, and it has just completed the Home Access for Targeted Groups project (which provided kit and connectivity for looked-after children and learners educated out of school). So it does have a fair amount of experience to build upon and help it succeed. All the projects, past and present do rely, though, upon learners and parents becoming convinced of the value and benefits of online access for their learning.
Why do it though? Why go to all these leangths and expense to provide learners and their families with online access? Well, the programme is supported by the Government’s own findings which appear to indicate that having and using online access has a beneficial effect upon learning; it can improve examination grades, lead to better financial reward and faciltate better learning opportunities for all learners. The underlying purpose of Home Access is therefore to improve the learning and future financial situation of current learners and their families.