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Carphone Warehouse and Dixons chiefs say tablets scheme will stop 'digital divide'

Carphone Warehouse chief executive Andrew Harrison and Dixons chief executive Sebastian James claim their 'Tablets for Schools' CSR initiative will help "bridge the digital divide" in the nation's schools.

Tablets for Schools: aimed at preventing a digital divide between the private and public sectors

Tablets for Schools: aimed at preventing a digital divide between the private and public sectors

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Speaking at the Tablets for Schools conference in London yesterday, Harrison said the CSR drive was in place to prevent a "digital divide in society" between the private and public sectors, by facilitating the provision of tablets across all schools.

Tablets for Schools has won the Government’s backing, with Conservative MP and former teacher Andrew Percy claiming Carphone Warehouse has spent "hundreds of thousands of pounds" on providing research about tablets' use in schools.

Percy also revealed Carphone Warehouse was seeking to spin off the Tablets for Schools corporate social responsibility initiative into "an independent charity".

Both Harrison and James sought to distance themselves from the suggestion that they are helping to introduce tablets into schools to further the commercial interests of the companies they run. 

Harrison said: "There is probably a lot of scepticism that the two people who run the organisations that probably sell the most tablets in the UK do not have a commercial agenda behind this. If [Carphone Warehouse] were doing it for ourselves, we wouldn’t be doing it with our biggest competitor.

"What you get with us is not people who have any great knowledge of education but what we are absolutely passionate about is the belief that technology can change the world and all of our lives. "

James added that Dixons’ 18 months involvement with Tablets for Schools had been "slow progress" because there was no tried and tested method of introducing tablets into schools.

Speaking to the delegation of teachers, he said: "We’ve had no paradigm. As you look around the world, no one has really found the right way to implement these amazing technologies into our schools.

"And along the way, we have encountered many sharks out there who are trying to take your money and to encourage you to do things that we would consider to be wrong. So we set ourselves a very clear first goal – which is how can we be a 'Lonely Planet Guide' for any school from any sector looking to implement these tablets?"

Matthew Hancock, the minister responsible for skills and enterprise at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Department for Education, praised Tablets for Schools for "objectively analysing how technology can be used and then promulgating best practice".

Hancock chairs a Department for Education group on the use of technology and explained that the Government was committed to helping remove obstacles facing schools.

He said: "We see it as our role to find out from you what the barriers are to the use of technology for improved teaching and where there are regulatory or funding barriers, we look at those and see what we can break through."

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