Children: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the number of children who do not have adequate access to computing devices or digital connectivity and who have not yet received support from the scheme to provide laptops and 4G dongles.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The department has already delivered over 220,000 laptops and tablets and over 50,000 4G wireless routers to local authorities and academy trusts for children who would not otherwise have access, as part of over £100 million invested to support remote education and access to online social care.

The department allocated laptops, tablets and routers to local authorities and academy trusts based on its estimates of the number of eligible children that did not have access to a device through other means, such as a private device or through school. Local authorities and academy trusts were responsible for distributing the devices, being best placed to know which children and young people need access to one.

Where local authorities and academy trusts identified a need greater than their initial allocation, they could provide evidence and request more devices. No valid request for additional devices was denied.

The department has published data on devices delivered through the programme here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/laptops-tablets-and-4g-wireless-routers-progress-data.

The department are now supplementing this support by making an initial 150,000 additional devices available in the event face-to-face schooling is disrupted as a result of local COVID-19 restrictions. These devices will be owned by the school, academy trust or local authority that receives them and can be loaned out to help children to access education and catch up support.

Schools will be able to use these devices to support disadvantaged pupils who would not otherwise be able to access remote education in years 3 to 11. Schools will also be able to order devices for disadvantaged children across all year groups who are shielding as a result of official advice, all year groups who attend a hospital school that is required to close and those completing their key stage 4 at a further education college that is required to close.

The targeting of devices through this scheme will be continually reviewed to ensure support is offered in the most effective way given the number of schools disrupted and the number of devices available at the time.

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