Pupils: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 18th September 2020.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what additional support he is providing to pupils who are not able to attend school due to the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

Between May and August, the Department delivered over 220,000 laptops and tablets to 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 is now supplementing this support by making available an initial 150,000 additional devices in the event that face to face schooling becomes disrupted as a result of local COVID-19 restrictions. This scheme will enable schools to support disadvantaged children in years 3 to year 11 who cannot otherwise access devices. Schools will also be able to order devices for disadvantaged children across all year groups who are shielding as a result of official or medical advice, all year groups who attend hospital schools and those completing their Key Stage 4 at a further education college.

The Department has also provided over 50,000 4G wireless routers to support disadvantaged children with internet connectivity. These routers come with free data for the autumn term and will allow local authorities and academy trusts to support children who may have their education and care disrupted because of official COVID-19 restrictions or disruption to face to face contact. In partnership with BT, the Department has also launched a service to provide children and young people free access to BT Wi-Fi hotspots.

The Department is also working with the major telecommunications companies to improve internet connectivity for disadvantaged and vulnerable families who rely on a mobile internet connection. We are piloting an approach where mobile network operators are providing temporary access to free additional data offering families more flexibility to access the resources that they need the most.

We expect all schools to have remote education contingency plans in place by the end of September. The Department published guidance on Thursday 2 July that sets out what is expected from schools for their remote education provision:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools#section-3-curriculum-behaviour-and-pastoral-support

We have published a comprehensive range of advice and guidance to support schools. This includes examples of teaching practice during coronavirus, which provides an opportunity for schools to learn from each other’s approaches to remote education:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/remote-education-practice-for-schools-during-coronavirus-covid-19

The guidance also includes examples of how schools can support pupils without internet access by, for example, providing physical work packs, which can be accessed here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/remote-education-practice-for-schools-during-coronavirus-covid-19

The Department has also supported sector-led initiatives like Oak National Academy, which launched on 20 April. By 12 July, 4.7 million unique users had accessed the Oak National Academy website and 16.1 million lessons had been viewed. The Department has made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy both for the summer term of the academic year 2019-20, and then for the 2020-21 academic year to provide video lessons for Reception up to Year 11. This will include specialist content for pupils with SEND.

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