More disadvantaged pupils to receive laptops as part of £126m package
By Eleanor Busby, PA Education Correspondent
More disadvantaged pupils and children who have arrived from Afghanistan will receive laptops and tablets as part of a £126 million funding package.
An additional half a million devices will be provided to schools, colleges and councils in England over the coming months to help young people, who are not in class due to Covid-19, to access their lessons.
The Department for Education (DfE) has said up to 10,000 devices will be sent to children with a social worker and those leaving care to help them stay in touch with their support networks.
Laptops and tablets will also be allocated to children who have recently arrived from Afghanistan to help them adjust to life in England and support their education.
The investment comes after 1.3 million laptops and tablets have already been delivered to support children to access remote education during the pandemic.
The latest attendance data shows the number of children out of school for Covid-19 related reasons in England has risen over the past fortnight.
The DfE estimates that 2.6% of all pupils – around 209,000 children – were not in class for reasons connected to coronavirus on Thursday last week.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our £126 million investment in laptops and tablets for those children who need them most will complement learning in school, and help drive our work to level up long-term outcomes for those in care or leaving care.
“This added investment builds on the 1.3 million laptops and tablets we have already provided during the pandemic, helping all children and young people, no matter their background, to access education and support for a better and brighter future.”
Schools, colleges and councils will be invited to order an allocation of devices in November and December, which will be determined by the proportion of pupils on free school meals and numbers of care leavers in each local authority.
James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “No pupil should be disadvantaged or lose out on learning simply because of a lack of access to the relevant technology, so this announcement that more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive devices is clearly welcome.
“It is essential that there is now an efficient process in place for getting these devices to the pupils that need them as quickly and smoothly as possible.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We sincerely hope this is a sign of fresh thinking from the Government and a desire to do right by our young people and that this will be reflected in next week’s spending review with funding for education recovery that is so desperately needed following the disruption caused by the pandemic.”