To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether it is his Department's policy that children provided with laptops for remote learning whilst they are self-isolating must return them upon return to school.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what progress he has made in encouraging network providers to zero rate educational websites to allow people who use mobile data to access them without charge.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent estimate he has made of the number of schoolchildren who lack reliable internet access in England.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent estimate he has made of the number of schoolchildren who do not have access to a computer in England.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of the average unit price of the laptops purchased under his Department's Get help with technology programme.
The Department has invested over £195 million to support remote education and access to online social care, this includes delivering over 220,000 laptops and tablets during the summer term for disadvantaged children who would not have otherwise had access to a digital device. The Department is adding to this support by making over 340,000 additional laptops and tablets available this term to support disadvantaged children that might experience disruption to their education. Since September, over 100,000 of these have been delivered to schools. This represents an injection of over half a million laptops and tablets by the end of the year.
Laptops and tablets are owned by the local authority, academy trust or school who can lend unused laptops and tablets to children and young people who need them most. The Department has allocated a number of devices to each school. To arrive at this allocation, we used data on the number of pupils eligible for free school meals in each school. The Department expects that pupils’ device needs will be met to some extent by existing school laptops and tablets. Schools, local authorities and academy trusts can request additional devices if their original allocation from the Department does not meet their needs.
The Department estimated the number of disadvantaged pupils without access to an internet connection using data on pupils eligible for free school meals in each school, taking into consideration estimations by Ofcom and reflecting that some pupils would already have access to a private internet connection. We have invested over £175 million to provide laptops, tablets and 4G wireless routers that come with free data for the academic year.
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. In the pilot, schools, trusts, and local authorities have identified children who need access to free additional data.
To further support disadvantaged households who rely on a mobile internet connection, the major telecoms companies have zero rated the Hungry Little Minds site. This means that users will not incur data charges when accessing this website, except where the content is hosted on a third party site. Zero rating is being put in place on an operator by operator basis. Zero rating is a helpful way to provide families with support to access critical resources where the majority of content is held on one website.