Parents pay fees for free laptops

PARENTS are being slugged large fees to allow their children to access laptop computers which the Federal Government had promised would be free to every high school student.

But in some cases those fees will include the cost of having text books on the machines, maintenance and internet allowance.

The laptops were promised by Kevin Rudd during the 2007 election campaign.

The National Secondary School Computer Fund provided schools with $1000 for each computer and up to $1500 for maintenance and installation of the laptop.

The NewsMail understands parents of students at Bundaberg High School will have to pay about $175 a year for access to the machine.

It is understood other schools are also charging access fees.

But Bundaberg High School P & C Association president Rosalyn Kemp said those fees would include the cost of putting some textbooks on the machines and for maintenance of the computers.

But she did mention the plan was still in the very early stages.

"I think it is a bit hard to work out at the moment exactly what is happening," she said.

Ms Kemp said the laptop program would start to function fully from the beginning of next year.

She said it was the first time any scheme like this had been run, and the school and P & C would be learning as they went.

Member for Hinkler Paul Neville said the fee was "yet again another broken promise" from the government.

He said it was not until late last year that a line appeared in the government's guidelines that allowed for schools to charge a fee for maintenance and repairs.

"It was slipped in quickly to give the government an escape hatch," he said.

"The very clear understanding was providing all students from Year 9 to 12 with computer access."

Mr Neville said allowing schools to charge fees for access to computers was not fair to parents, especially those from disadvantaged families.

"I think it's a breach of trust and a cynical manipulation of the public," he said.

Education Queensland was not able to provide the News-Mail with the fees Bundaberg schools would charge for computers, nor what they were for.

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