Access to technology is a critical issue in schools.

Access to technology is a critical issue in schools.

A plan to give free laptops to pupils from poor backgrounds is being rolled out to 270,000 families in England, reports the BBC. The 300 million-pound ($362 million) Home Access plan, first announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008, has been piloted in two local areas. It will allow some of the most needy children to apply for a grant for a free laptop and broadband connection. It aims to help bridge the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils. A recent study from the Institute of Fiscal Studies suggested having a laptop at home could lead to a two-grade improvement in one subject on high-stakes exams. The free laptop plan has been a long time coming, with the first hint that families would be provided with computers coming from Brown when he was Chancellor back in 1999. This first attempt involved firms leasing out free computers to their employees in return to tax breaks. It eventually gained the support of about 60 companies but was scuttled after seven years. Under the new plan, the family gets the laptop to keep, but the broadband connection is funded for one year. After that, families can decide whether to keep funding the connection themselves. Not all children on free school meals, the government’s benchmark for poor children, will get computers, a department spokesman said. But families with children ages seven to 14 will be able to apply for a grant to buy a computer and broadband connection from an approved stocklist…

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staff and wire services reports