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Laptops and Tablets

Volume 554: debated on Monday 3 December 2012

Technology provides a great opportunity to get high-quality teaching materials and experiences from around the world into our classrooms, but it is key to remember that the quality of teaching is paramount in educational achievement. That is why we have given heads the power over their own budgets to decide how best to spend money.

The Minister will not be surprised to find me disagreeing with her analysis. The fact is that there is a growing digital divide between schools that take technology seriously as a way of learning and those that do not. It is up to this Government, who got rid of the Department’s e-learning unit, to realise that leadership in this respect will take us to an educational system for the future.

We are extremely keen as a Government that children do not just use technology but understand how it works because they are able to code and programme from an early age. We are working with leading experts to develop programmes in computing so that children are able to do that. In fact, the technology needed to achieve it is very cheap. A parent or school can get Scratch from Massachusetts Institute of Technology for free and the Raspberry Pi device for under £20. This is not an issue of funding but of teaching and inspiration, and the leadership that we are showing.

I know from my own time in the classroom how important digital media resources can be in helping to deliver first-class lessons, but too many schools in my constituency are unable to access fast enough broadband speeds. May I urge my hon. Friend to take up the mantle of schools on the Isle of Axholme, in particular, to ensure that our broadband delivery plans are rolled out as quickly as possible?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend that high-speed broadband is important so that students can access the best-quality teaching materials from around the world. That is why, as a Government, we are pursuing high-speed broadband across the country.

Bridge academy in Hackney and our university technology college, among other schools in Hackney, provide proper digital learning for jobs for five years hence. Given the Minister’s words about the importance of learning in this field, what is she doing to make sure that the school curriculum is preparing students for the work force for businesses such as those in Tech City which require this home-grown talent?

We are working with leading figures in IT and computing to develop a programme of study that will encourage children to learn to code and programme from an early age. The problem with the previous information and communications technology curriculum, as everybody agreed, is that it was focused on using programmes instead of understanding how to programme.

I thank the Minister for giving that answer, which is very encouraging. However, what is the timetable for this new enthusiasm for programming?