'Free' laptops to cost parents
STUDENTS will not be able to use wireless internet at state schools unless they join the school's laptop program, which will cost parents hundreds of dollars over their high school education.
Schools around Bundaberg are preparing parents for the program, which was started after a promise by the Federal Government during the 2007 election.
The scheme allows $1000 for each computer and $1500 for maintenance and installation.
The computers, which were originally to be at no cost to parents, are now coming with an attached fee in many schools.
Bundaberg High School is charging parents a $175 annual fee for their child to be able to receive a laptop - which must be returned to the school when the student leaves.
But for students who already have their own laptops or for parents who wish to buy them one, they will not be able to access WiFi at the school.
Coral Cove dad Paul Page, whose children attend Bundaberg High, said he was angry at the decision that meant his son, who uses one of his second-hand laptops, will miss out unless he pays the extra fee.
"To me that is basically bullying you into having their laptop so you can use the internet at school," he said.
"It's going to cost over $700 over the course of four years when Officeworks has netbooks for a lot less than that."
In a letter to the NewsMail, Queensland Labor Senator John Hogg said the Federal Government did not support the charge of a fee for students to use a computer provided under the scheme.
"The decision to charge fees is made solely by the school community," he said.
"Any suggestion that the fee is charged by the government is incorrect."
He said schools could make changes to the program according to how they were delivering the computers and to whom.
"Schools and P&Cs should consider developing a program where parents do not have to pay a fee for their children's use of computers," he said.
Department of Education and Training assistant director-general of information technologies David O'Hagan said students would still have access to school computers if they did not pay the voluntary fee for the take-home devices.
"Enabling private laptops to access school networks is problematic, as each laptop would require expensive customisation and potentially compromise the department's network security," he said.