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Children living in rural areas are at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in urban areas because of inadequate broadband services.

This is the conclusion of a report by Rural England, which pointed out that schools are increasingly using online learning materials and expecting pupils to do lots of homework online.

However, the report states that this is very difficult for children living in homes with slow connections, particularly if they are carrying out research-based tasks that involve downloading attachments and large documents.

Brian Wilson, author of the report, commented: "A lack of a fast broadband connection is an issue in a lot of rural places. 

"It is expanding but it is still the case that about a quarter of homes will be unable to get a broadband connection."

Responding to the report, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) insisted that nine out of ten homes and businesses in the UK can now get superfast broadband.

Furthermore, it pointed out that the Better Broadband scheme is now providing immediate assistance to those homes in rural areas that are struggling with the slowest speeds. However, a DCMS spokesman said it is "determined to go further".

"We've just announced £400 million that will be used to take superfast broadband even further and reach hundreds of thousands more rural homes," he commented.

"And we are legislating for a Universal Service Obligation, which will give every home and business in the UK the right to fast broadband."

Another approach being considered by the government to improve broadband speeds in rural areas is equipping church spires with broadband satellites.

Digital and Culture Minister Matt Hancock is currently in talks with the Church of England to explore the idea of using 16,000 churches to help offer superfast broadband speeds to communities in remote locations.

Matt Warman, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary group on broadband, has urged the government to introduce specific provisions to improve the quality of connectivity on school premises.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, he said: "Children aren’t able to do huge chunks of the curriculum if they don’t have a decent connection.

"Some councils have been forward thinking about this, but others have not and it is very clear that some schools are better connected than others."

Mr Warman argued that this is unfair in an education system that is meant to provide equal opportunities to every pupil.

"It is hard for me to justify to one parent whose children have almost zero broadband at school while others have something much better," he commented.

Mr Warman added that schools should be given priority in any new government proposals for a national standard of internet speed.

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