Row over laptops for disadvantaged kids

Over 1,500 laptops and tablets have been made available for disadvantaged children in Hartlepool since September, figures show.
Row flares over schools laptop provision.Row flares over schools laptop provision.
Row flares over schools laptop provision.

Department for Education data shows 1,661 laptops and tablets had been sent to schools in the area as of January 17 to help youngsters with their distance learning – 79% up on the 928 reported on January 12.

But school leaders' union National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) says the Government's rollout of devices had seen children "miserably let down" by the scheme.

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Nationally, around one million 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 1.3 million – but a poll of NAHT members found nearly half had received fewer than 10% of devices 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.

“It needs to go beyond their boasts about the numbers delivered so far.

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"Of more importance to pupils and schools, is the speed at which the Government can meet the needs of the estimated 1.8 million children in the UK who 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..

She said: “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.

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

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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.”