Call for free laptops scheme to be expanded

Call for free laptops scheme to be expanded

Headteachers are calling on the Department for Education to rapidly expand its free laptops scheme to help the most disadvantaged pupils.

During a Commons Education Select committee meeting, schools minister Nick Gibb was asked about pupils without access to remote learning, who were not eligible for the DfE’s laptops scheme.

Committee chair Robert Halfon said: “Around one and a half million pupils are eligible for the pupil premium but are not covered by the laptops scheme.

“And 17 per cent of households in the lowest income quintile do not have access to the internet, and the children’s commissioner has suggested that 700,000 children don’t have either a laptop or a desktop at home.

“What are the plans for these individuals, who are not part of the existing scheme?”

Mr Gibb said: “We had to prioritise where the resource would go. And we prioritised children in care; those children who are known to a social worker; and who are in Year 10 and are taking exams next year.

“So that was clearly the priority. Schools, of course, have other computers that they are lending and using to make sure that they can deliver online lessons to their pupils – and those computers exist already.”

Meanwhile, one of the country’s largest MATs, the Academy Enterprise Trust, has purchased 9,000 additional laptops, at a cost of £2million to ensure pupils eligible for free school meals can access digital learning during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We will do everything possible to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus.

“We have provided over £100 million to boost remote education, including providing devices to those children who need it most, and technical support for schools to access and effectively use Google and Microsoft’s education platforms.”

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Call for free laptops scheme to be expanded

Call for free laptops scheme to be expanded