CHILDREN and young people with strong online access do better at school than those with a poor internet connection, research suggests.

Findings from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) revealed a 25% increase in GCSE grades among students with regular internet access. Learning Foundation research also estimated that a million children in the UK with poor internet connection are expected to score a grade lower on their exam results than peers with a better connection.

The suggestion comes as new figures released by Ofcom show that most people say they both need and expect a constant internet connection wherever they go, while “finding and downloading information for work or college” was one of the most highly cited uses of the internet, with 33% of over-18s performing this activity in the last week.

READ MORE: Glens get ready for ultrafast web link

Yesterday, The National brought you news that some remote Highland communities are to be connected to ultrafast broadband as part of the £428 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme led by Highland and Islands Enterprise.

Internet access is now required for around half of all homework set, according to another recent study, while one in seven parents agrees the internet is “essential” to their child’s education.

However, one in 12 people aged 16 and above remain without internet access at home, Ofcom says.

US research found that while high-speed internet improved students’ academic outcomes post-secondary school, it increased pre-existing inequalities by “primarily benefitting those with more resources”.

Paul Finnis, chief executive of the Learning Foundation, said: “We strongly believe that attainment and connectivity are closely linked.

“Damien Hinds, the new Education Secretary, has just challenged the tech industry to lead an ‘education revolution’ for schools. This is only fair and possible if it is equitable and every schoolchild has the same opportunities to access learning at home as well as at school.

“Rurality and poverty separately and combined are the two major factors in access to connectivity and for those children and families that fall into either or both of those categories, it will still be some time until they are able to access all of the benefits – social and educational – that connectivity has to offer,” Finnis added.

The ability to acquire information and communication technology (ICT) skills at school also has important implications for the future careers of children.

A 2017 report by the European Commission found that 90% of jobs require some level of digital skills, while 94% of European workplaces use broadband technology.

Mark Wheeler, chief executive officer at Whitespace, which helps to provide rural and remote communities with broadband connectivity, said: “There’s no doubt that children growing up in unconnected areas are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of their education and future careers.

“This is an injustice that shouldn’t exist in 2018.”

At the end of last year the UK Government pledged to give everyone the legal right to demand a broadband speed of 10 megabits per second — the speed needed to meet the requirements of an average family, according to Ofcom — by 2020.

However, this universal service obligation will be subject to a threshold whereby new infrastructure will only be provided to premises where the cost of installation does not exceed £3400.