During the first few years the new millenium the Department began to discuss the concept of "Universal Access". Projects such as Microsoft's Anytime, Anywhere Learning
Computers for Pupils initiative aimed to provide equipment and a safe internet connection to the homes of around 100,000 pupils in the most disadvantaged areas of England.
It was announced on March 2005 that £50 million was to be made available through Standards Fund grants for schools in deprived areas to invest in home access to information and communication technologies (ICT) for their neediest pupils. A further £10 million of funding was announced in the March 2006 budget specifically to ensure that the pupils targeted by this initiative also had safe internet connectivity.
Covering more than 1,000 secondary schools and two-thirds of all local authorities, the two-year, £90 million programme (2006–2008) focused on students living in the 10 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. Schools themselves, with advice from the local authorities, decide on the most appropriate equipment for their students, providing a desktop computer, the latest laptops or mobile/handheld devices. Connections to the learning network, educational resources in school and a filtered internet service can be through fixed lines (DSL) or mobile (3G) services, and several areas in aligned initiatives are installing wireless connections covering whole communities.
The Home Access Taskforce was announced by Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools and Learners in January 2007. The Taskforce was charged with considering and advising on ways in which home access to technology can be delivered for all school-aged children in England, ensuring that any plans include and promote safe and responsible use. In particular, the Taskforce provided a mechanism for partnership working by creating a forum in which issues affecting home access to technology could be raised and addressed. It advised the Schools Minister on the effective development, delivery and sustainability of home access.
In July 2008, the Home Access Taskforce report identified evidence of market failure, and made the case for government intervention in providing home access to technology, particularly to lower income families with children. The Taskforce proposed that a programme of intervention should address three key strands of activity: maximising the benefits of home access to all increasing the perceived value by parents removing the barriers of cost for families with low incomes.
1.3 Following these recommendations, the Government announced in September 2008 the Home Access Programme – positioned as a £300 million initiative, with Becta as the delivery agency. This programme was to allow for eligible families to apply for a grant to purchase a Home Access package from an accredited supplier.
1.4 The programme was piloted in Oldham and Suffolk in 2009, and was rolled out nationally in late 2009. The national roll-out of the programme was targeted at pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) aged 7-14 years in Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 only, compared to the original target group aged 5-19 years during the pilot phase2. The delivery model involved awarding grants to eligible families by means of a single pre-loaded card, which could be used to purchase a computer with one year‟s connectivity from approved suppliers.
Passey, D, Steadman, S, Forsyth, K, Hutchison, D & Scott, A 1999 'Anytime anywhere learning pilot programme: a Microsoft UK supported programme in 28 pilot schools' Microsoft UK, Reading