I was just starting a blog post to update everybody on the Home Access Programme, and the latest news. But then I stopped. I wondered “Well, do people know what the Home Access Programme is?” – and a couple of quick phone calls to schools and I realised that there’s a big gap between what most people know, and what ‘the powers that be’ assume everybody knows.

So here’s my “Dummy’s Guide to the Home Access Programme"* (although, if I was from across the Atlantic, this would be tagged “Home Access Programme 101”.

Took me ages to work out what 101 meant, until I discovered it was the first module in any course – eg Science 101. Microsoft seems to have taken this to a higher level still, with all of our training tagged 100, 200, 300 or 400 Level. For me, I have a simple inverse rule:

  • I will understand 100% of a Level 100 course
  • I will understand 50% of a Level 200 course
  • I will understand 25% of a Level 300 course
  • On a Level 400 course, I will not even understand the course title

Anyway, back to Home Access…

What is the Home Access Programme?

  • A Government programme for England, implemented by Becta, to give children in low-income households access to a computer, support and Internet access
  • It was announced last September that the Government will be funding it with £300m over the next couple of years
  • Parents of children who qualify will be able to claim a “Home Access Grant”, which they can exchange for an approved computer package at one of the approved suppliers
  • Around 1 million children will qualify (the bottom 15% of households by income)

When does the Home Access Programme start?

Like all of these schemes, there’s a pilot phase first, from now until the summer:

  • English Local Authorities have already been given the funding to buy computers for ‘looked after’ children only, and they’ll be providing them before April
  • Two local authorities, Oldham and Suffolk, are running the wider pilot, for all qualifying children in their authorities. So families in these two areas will be able to apply for the Home Access Grant from the end of February, and they can then go and choose one of the approved packages from one of the approved suppliers

The main roll out of the scheme starts in the Autumn, probably from November:

  • All families who qualify will then have the chance to apply for the Home Access Grant, and can then rush down to their nearest approved supplier and walk away with their new computer.
  • The family own the computer – it doesn’t belong to the school or local authority.
  • The grant period lasts for two years (ie that’s when the current money runs out).

Some people confuse the Home Access Programme with Computers for Pupils (CFP), but it’s quite different, as the CFP programme used education (local authorities and schools) as a channel to families. The Home Access Programme is very different – it is mostly about parents buying directly from an approved supplier, using their Grant – the school isn’t directly involved.

How are schools involved in the Home Access Programme?

  • The model for purchase – parent applies for the grant, the government provides it, and then the family buy from a supplier – means that schools aren’t directly involved.
  • However, lots of good practice from community ICT access programmes, including CFP, shows that schools can make a significant contribution to the effective use of the computer, by providing remote access to the schools learning platform, supporting parental ICT skills development etc
  • I think we’re going to see some schools choosing to get involved – such as providing advice for parents on how to choose the right package, and how to ensure it is compatible with the school’s systems & learning platform (and this would be especially true if the school is considering allowing pupils to connect their own laptops to the school network)

I’ll stop there, because that’s quite enough info for a Dummy’s Guide, but over the next couple of days I’ll write more about the programme…

* "Dummy's Guide" rather than "Guide for Dummies" because the first version refers to the writer (me) being the dummy!