"Schools are making increasing use of the Internet and both primary and secondary school children are routinely expected to access the Internet for homework. This council has just undertaken a comprehensive review of social mobility issues in Kent's education system and the select committee has made some valuable recommendations. However, a number of children are potentially disadvantaged by the lack of Internet access or a computer at home. Can the Cabinet Member for Education and Health Reform please advise how many primary school age children in Kent do not have access to the Internet at home and, if this information is currently unavailable, would he arrange for this information to be collected from the county's primary schools?"
Kent County Council does not hold data detailing the home internet access for primary age children and there are no specific figures published indicating the internet access for homes that have school age children. However, national statistics suggests that around 85% of homes nationally have access to the internet (Ofcom 2015) and whilst separate figures for Kent and the South East are not published, the South East is generally 2-3% higher than the national average.
Theoretically it would be possible to collect data concerning the home internet access for primary age children; this would require all Kent primary schools to complete home internet access surveys with their parents and the completed surveys that would need to be collected and collated centrally. However, this would potentially be an extremely labour intensive process with results that would have a very short shelf life, as family circumstances change and children move through their school lives. It would also be challenging to discriminate between the types of internet access available at home and the levels of disadvantage due to the commonplace use of large smart phones and tablets that access the internet using 3/4G services.
In general, Kent schools provide very good pupil access to the internet within their support structures, with breakfast and after school homework clubs well established. Many schools have the facilities to offer pupils loaned laptops and tablets to assist their learning outside of the school. The free use of internet and computing facilities are also offered by the network of Kent Libraries.
It is also of note that Kent County Council is investing £32.6M of public funding to improve internet access. This is not intended to deliver access to more homes, as virtually every home in Kent can already access the Internet, but focusses on improving the speed of accessing the internet. The initial intention is to improve speeds to a minimum of 2Mbps for every home and business and the aim is to achieve a minimum of 24Mbps to 95% by summer 2018.