The first 20,000 youngsters to benefit from an ambitious plan to ensure all of England’s school-age children have computer access at home have been chosen, reports the BBC. The 300 million-pound program will be piloted among pupils from low-income families in Suffolk and in Oldham beginning in February. Grants will pay for a computer, software, internet access for one year, and three years’ technical support. Schools Minister Jim Knight also wants IT firms to offer cheap deals to all pupils aged seven to 18 in those areas. Some 150,000 youngsters altogether could benefit. The idea was first proposed in January 2007, when the government set up a task force to ensure that all children had access to the internet outside school. "There has to be a culture where families see home [internet] access is as important as making sure their children have pen, paper, and calculator at school," Knight said. "The bottom line is that having home access to the internet or a computer is no longer an optional extra for school work–it is fast becoming essential."

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