To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent estimate he has made of the number of pupils eligible for free school meals in (a) Stockton-on-Tees, (b) the North East and (c) England who will not have access to (i) an appropriate digital device, (ii) an internet connection and (iii) data after his Department's roll-out of devices and 4G wireless routers is complete.
The Government has committed over £100 million to support children in England to access remote education and social care services, including by providing vulnerable and disadvantaged children with laptops, tablets and 4G wireless routers. We have provided laptops and tablets to disadvantaged children who would otherwise not have access and are preparing for examinations in year 10, receiving support from a social worker or are a care leaver. Where care leavers, children with a social worker at secondary school and children in year 10 do not have internet connections, we have provided 4G wireless routers.
The Department has provided over 200,000 laptops and tablets to local authorities and academy trusts based on its estimates of the number of eligible children that do not have access to a device. These estimates were based on the proportion of disadvantaged children, an estimate of private devices ownership and an estimate of existing devices held by schools which could be loaned out to meet the needs of these children. Local authorities and academy trusts are best placed to identify and prioritise children and young people who need devices. Local authorities and academy trusts could request additional devices, if required.
As of the end of June, over 200,000 laptops and tablets and over 47,000 4G wireless routers had been delivered to local authorities and academy trusts. This included 755 laptops and tablets and 160 4G wireless routers to Stockton-on-Tees local authority for children with a social worker and care leavers and year 10 pupils in local authority maintained schools.
The Department has delivered the following number of devices to local authorities for children with a social worker, care leavers and disadvantaged year 10s across the North East. The Department continues to deliver devices as orders are received.
Devices Delivered or Dispatched
4G Wireless Routers Delivered or Dispatched
Newcastle upon Tyne
Devices have also been delivered to academy trusts which have schools in the North East for disadvantaged year 10 pupils.
The Department has launched a service to provide children and young people free access to BT wifi hotspots until the end of December. 10,000 families will initially be able to access the scheme. We are currently working with BT to expand this offer to allow more children to access the internet through their network of BT wifi hotspots.
We are working with the major telecommunications companies to improve internet connectivity for disadvantaged and vulnerable families. For families who rely on a mobile internet connection, mobile network operators are working to provide access to free additional data while COVID-19 requires children to learn from home and more social care services are online.
For those in rural areas or without a connection, schools are able to draw on support from the BBC which is broadcasting lessons on television. Some of the BBC educational content is offline, via the red button.
Schools may also choose to draw on the many resources offers which have been made by publishers across the country. The Department has published an initial list of high quality online educational resources, which have been identified by some of the country’s leading educational experts to help pupils learn at home.