Remote Learning: Laptops and Other Devices

Education – in the House of Commons on 18th January 2021.

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Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the roll-out of (a) laptops and (b) other devices to disadvantaged pupils to support remote learning during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Conservative, Delyn

What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the roll-out of (a) laptops and (b) other devices to disadvantaged pupils to support remote learning during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

What assessment he has made of the availability of (a) devices and (b) access to broadband for school and college pupils working from home during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the roll-out of (a) laptops and (b) other devices to disadvantaged pupils to support remote learning during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

We are investing over £400 million to support access to remote education, including by providing 1.3 million laptops and tablets to disadvantaged children. We are partnering with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data, as well as deliver 4G wireless routers for pupils without a connection at home.

Photo of Paul Howell Paul Howell Conservative, Sedgefield

Wingate Community Nursery School in my Sedgefield constituency has continued to provide excellent early years education to its students throughout the covid-19 pandemic. As a result of the change to the early years education funding process, which will see nurseries receive funding per hour if a student is in attendance, and with many parents struggling with the decision of whether to send their children to nursery, Wingate nursery may find itself financially worse off. Will the Secretary of State look again at the changes to the funding process and confirm that they will not have a negative impact on nurseries financially?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

I would very much like to join my hon. Friend in thanking the staff at Wingate for all the work they do to support children, including in these incredibly difficult times. He is right to point out how we proceeded with the funding mechanism prior to Christmas. Obviously, in the light of the changing course of the pandemic, we had to make revisions to ensure that nurseries such as Wingate across the country get the support they need. That is why we have changed the approach to the census being carried out this week.

Photo of Rob Roberts Rob Roberts Conservative, Delyn

The Welsh Government, which is led by Labour with a Liberal Democrat Education Minister, have presided over an 8.4% real-terms reduction in education spending in the past 10 years. Last week, my office identified that dozens of the most deprived households in my constituency still do not have access to suitable devices for learning remotely. What advice can my right hon. Friend give me on assisting the young learners in my constituency, who are being let down once again by the Welsh Government?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

Of course, we will always want to work very closely with all the devolved Administrations, sharing good practice and good ideas across the board. I understand that the Welsh Government are still sitting on £1 billion-worth of covid funding provided to them by the UK Government. We would ensure that that was not sat in their coffers, but was spent wisely to support children in my hon. Friend’s constituency and right across Wales.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

In the city of Cambridge last week, 1,748 children were without a suitable device for learning. Across the county as a whole, almost 6,500 were. Ministers have had almost a year to sort this out. When will every child have access to the learning they need?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

I point the hon. Gentleman to an answer I gave earlier. Over 2.9 million devices are already in circulation within the school system. That has been supplemented by an additional 1.3 million, of which 750,000 have already been dispatched. Over the last two weeks, we have been seeing the dispatch of devices to schools running at approximately 20,000 each day.

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

I thank Ministers and education officers for their work, and most of all, I thank teachers on the Isle of Wight for keeping education going in these very difficult circumstances; I am sure that the Secretary of State would want to do so as well. Can he explain what further support is being planned for children in need on the Island and what is being done to ensure adequate virtual learning across all schools?

Photo of Gavin Williamson Gavin Williamson The Secretary of State for Education

I join my hon. Friend in thanking teachers and support staff on the Isle of Wight for their work over the last few months and for their continued work and efforts in terms of ensuring that every child on the Isle of Wight gets the very best education. We have already announced the increase in the number of devices that we are procuring—increasing that from the initial 200,000 that we announced a number of months ago to 1.3 million; this is very much there to complement the offer—and we have set out explicitly the expectations that we have of all schools and colleges in terms of the provision of remote education in these truly unprecedented times.