Eastbourne Life with Graham Walker: A gold star for Eastbourne Academy

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“That’s where I want to go to school dad” said my ten year old son in response to the news that Eastbourne Academy plans to equip all of its students with iPad tablet computers. I am sure many young people will be equally impressed.

The Head of Eastbourne Academy deserves a gold star for this bold move. Ninety percent of new jobs in the UK now require basic technology skills. People with IT skills earn up to ten percent more than people without them. The IT sector is growing fast and already accounts for seven percent of the UK’s GDP. Perhaps, most importantly, research shows that children with access to technology at home do up to two grades better in their GCSEs are more likely to get higher qualifications and better paying jobs.

Many schools now rightly use technology to support the teaching of all subjects in every classroom. Not just computers but electronic whiteboards instead of the old blackboard, digital cameras and video recorders and electronic music players. Our kids’ love learning like this and it is essential that we prepare them to be successful in the world they will inhabit rather than the world of their parents or grandparents.

So the question shouldn’t be whether Eastbourne Academy is right. It should be how quickly other schools will follow their example! It is wrong that any children, particularly those from lower income families, are likely to do worse in their exams simply because they lack an essential learning tool, in this case a personal computer and broadband connection.

The iPad might not be the answer for all schools. Last week a charity launched a computer costing just twenty pounds –called the Raspberry Pi - aimed at teaching children to programme computers as well as use them. They have been overwhelmed by demand from schools and parents and it will be many months before every order is satisfied. I expect the Herald will get the odd letter complaining about new fangled computers but it seems that most schools and parents are convinced that we can’t afford to play King Canute with our children’s futures.

When I grew up in London you learnt that you had to go up the ‘apples and pears’ to bed. My children may not like washing their ‘boat races’ but they already know more than I do about Apple, Blackberry and the Raspberry Pi! That’s why I hope Eastbourne Academy will think about how it can help bring the parents and grandparents of its new iPad carrying learners into the digital age.

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I’ve spent a lot of time visiting nursing homes in the last week or so as my father has been ill. Two things have struck me. Firstly, that even the most basic residential care is incredibly expensive, up to a thousand pounds a week! Secondly, that there are some fantastic people working in Eastbourne’s residential homes who really care about their residents.

My father has now moved in to Sunrise on Upper Kings Drive. It’s a huge change for him as before his recent illness he’s been used to living independently. Being able to smoke his pipe in the smoking room and the possibility of his dog living with him are lifting his spirits a bit. Fingers crossed that with lots of visits from his two grandsons he’ll start to enjoy living in Eastbourne as much as the rest of the family.

grahamcwalker@googlemail.com

follow me on twitter @eastbournelife