Thousands of laptops for disadvantaged children in Lancashire

Drive to help youngsters keep up with home schooling

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 7:00 am

Thousands of laptops and tablets have been made available for disadvantaged children through Lancashire’s education authority since September.

But school leaders’ union National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) says the Government’s rollout of devices was still not finished, claiming children had been “miserably let down” by the scheme.

Department for Education data shows 12,864 laptops and tablets had been sent to Lancashire County Council or its maintained schools as of January 17.

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Department for Education data shows 12,864 laptops and tablets had been sent to Lancashire County Council or its maintained schools

That was 91 per cent up from the 6,752 reported on January 12.

The figures do not include those allocated to academy trusts, as they are not maintained by the local authority.

The devices handed out this academic year are in addition to the 3,748 laptops and tablets which were provided for care leavers, pupils with social workers and Year 10 pupils during the 2020 summer term.

Across England, around 1m laptops and tablets have so far been distributed for disadvantaged young people during the pandemic by the Government.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson says that figure will rise to 1.3m with a further 300,000 devices.

However, the Government has faced criticism over the scheme – a poll by NAHT of its members found nearly half had received fewer than 10 per cent of the laptops and tablets requested.

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “The Government’s attempts to provide devices and internet connections for all pupils who need them are still incomplete, even though we are more than nine months into the pandemic.”

He added: “The Government needs to go beyond their boasts about the numbers of laptops delivered so far.

“Of more importance to pupils and schools, is the speed the Government can meet the needs of the 1.8 million children in the UK that Ofcom estimates have no home access to a laptop, desktop or tablet. In our view, they have been miserably let down.”

Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, also said more work needed to be done..

“Clearly there has been progress in the distributions of laptops since the latest lockdown began, though there are many children who are still not able to learn from home properly,” she said.

“It is important that they are prioritised to that they can attend school and not miss out on their education.”

The number of laptops and tablets allocated for schools is decided by calculating how many children are eligible for free school meals and an estimate of devices the school and children already have.

Schools can ask for additional devices.

Children are classed as disadvantaged if they have no digital devices or are sharing a single device in their household, or they only have access to a smartphone.

Mr Williamson said: ““I know that teachers, school staff and parents have continued to work collaboratively and immensely hard since the start of this term to help children to learn at home and we know it is absolutely vital that we get devices out to children who need them the most.

“We are committed to delivering those devices to support both schools and families with remote learning and I’m proud to see us pass over 800,000 devices issued to schools and councils through the pandemic, with nearly 240,000 of those issued since schools closed to most pupils this month.”