A secondary school has become the first in Britain to issue every pupil with a personal laptop.
All 1,400 youngsters at Writhlington School in Somerset have been given a Dell Netbook worth £400 which they use in lessons and take home with them.
It enables pupils to file homework online and receive ‘instant’ feedback messages from teachers when they are not in the classroom.
Students can also use the machines to make multi-media presentations using sophisticated software such as Powerpoint.
The laptop scheme is part of £25million project to replace the old school building with a new purpose-built business and enterprise college.
Parents are asked to contribute £2-a-week to hire their child’s laptop for the duration of their time at the school.
Will Roberts, deputy head of the school near Radstock, said: ”Most parents think it’s a bargain when you consider how much it costs to buy a laptop outright.
”From an early age in the building of the new school we wanted to invest in laptops rather than desktops, and then every pupil has constant access to a computer.
”We are a business and enterprise college and this is how it is in the business world, so why not start how they mean to go on?
”Any time they want to learn, they can. They can work wherever they are in the school or at home and at weekends.
”Their work can be marked instantly and teachers can offer feedback and share pupils’ work away from the classroom.”
Writhlington School is the first in Britain where every pupil in every year will use a laptop. It is also the first school to issue all pupils with a laptop at the same time.
Mr Roberts said that 90 per cent of parents have agreed to pay the £2-a-week fee, which contributes towards purchase and insurance costs. Those who are unable to pay will receive financial assistance.
The pupils – aged between 11 and 18 – will be able to complete homework by connecting with the school servers from home and view information from that day’s lessons.
Their laptops are automatically backed-up on the school’s main hard drives every time they are connected to the network.
But Mr Roberts added that children will still use traditional textbooks and writing materials.
He said: ”It is becoming increasingly important in all schools but most pupils use desktops or have to borrow laptops when they need them.
”There is still a place here for traditional writing and textbooks and there will always be a place for that here.
”But we want to prepare our pupils for the real world, and this is how most businesses work these days.”
The laptops will come into use after the Easter holidays when the new school building opens.
Headteacher Marie Getheridge said: ”Our new school is designed to encourage independent learning in a modern and stimulating environment.
”We want our students’ learning to mirror the ‘real world’ as closely as possible, and that means every student being able to access a computer whenever they need to do so.
”This exciting project is of great importance to the future of our school and our community, and we are delighted with the enthusiastic support we have received from students and parents.”
The laptop project was launched in conjunction with the e-Learning Foundation, a Government-backed charity which works to ensure IT access in schools.
The Foundation has invested £13.6million in IT ventures across Britain over the last nine years and has helped 416 schools and 100,000 pupils gain better access to computers.
It says the Writhlington School project – to which it contributed a £25,000 grant – is unique because it is built into the new school building and has universal uptake among pupils across the age groups.
Operations director Kevin Pay said: ”The laptops were an integral part of the new school building and the project has been superbly executed.
”There has never been a school which has done this in one go before, and the uptake is the highest we have come across.
”Our experience shows that access to computers like this can improve GCSE grades by one to two points.
”We find that work rates go up – after all, there is no excuse for not having your homework on you.”