What price progress? The answer for parents who send their children to state schools for what they thought would be a free education is that it can be very high indeed. More and more parents are being asked to buy tablet computers for their children to use in class, at a cost of several hundred pounds. And the move is drawing grumbles from families on tight budgets and fuelling fears of a “digital divide” in education.
With the use of digital technology expanding quickly in schools, headteachers are keen to be at the forefront of new teaching methods that they believe will save money in the long run on equipment such as books.
Now, ahead of the new school year in September, many schools are asking parents to stump up between £200 and £300 for an iPad or other tablet for their child, or pay for a device in instalments that can vary from £12 to £30 a month, as they rush to keep at the head of the information revolution.
While their introduction is popular with youngsters, parents and teaching unions are raising concerns that those from poorer backgrounds could lose out and that supposedly free state education looks destined to come with increasing built-in costs.
Hove Park school, in Hove, East Sussex, for example, has given parents a choice of three ways to acquire iPads as part of what it calls its “learning transformation” project.
They can send their child to school with their own device, rent one from the school for a minimum of £12.40 a month, or buy one from the school, for between £209 to £300. One parent said: “I’d like to see some evidence that bringing this kind of technology into classrooms is even beneficial to how kids learn. There’s an awful lot of information out there on the net that is plain wrong. I feel quite uneasy about what we might be doing to them and to teaching.”