To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the press release published by his Department on 20 December 2020 entitled One million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people, what progress has been made on distributing the 440,000 devices to assist pupils with home learning.
The Government is investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services, including securing 1.3 million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people. This significant injection of laptops and tablets is on top of an estimated 2.9 million already owned by schools before the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The laptops and tablets are to help support schools, academy trusts and local authorities to provide access to remote education and online social care. Schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities are responsible for distributing laptops and tablets and are best placed to know which children and young people need access to a device.
As of Monday 15 February, over one million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities, and further education providers. This includes over 490,000 laptops and tablets delivered since the 4th January 2021. We are making further deliveries all the time and expect to achieve our overall commitment of delivering 1.3 million devices by the end of the spring term.
We have partnered with the UK’s leading mobile operators to provide free data to help disadvantaged children get online as well as delivering 60,000 4G wireless routers for pupils without connection at home.
A number of these laptops, tablets and routers have been delivered to Slough local authority and academy trusts in Slough, details of which are available through this link: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/laptops-and-tablets-data/2021-week-7.
Where pupils continue to experience barriers to digital remote education, we expect schools to work to overcome these barriers. This could include distributing school-owned laptops or supplementing digital provision with different forms of remote education, such as printed resources or textbooks. This should be supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils and students on track or answer questions about work.
Guidance, resources and support for teachers and school leaders on educating pupils and students during the current COVID-19 restrictions are available on the get help with remote education page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/get-help-with-remote-education.
We know this is a challenging time for parents, carers, and children and that many parents and carers are balancing various responsibilities while supporting their children with education at home. We have published information for parents and carers on remote education and how they can best support their child while learning from home, which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/supporting-your-childrens-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19?priority-taxon=b350e61d-1db9-4cc2-bb44-fab02882ac25. This includes resources and advice to help parents and carers on how to establish a routine with their child, and how best to support mental health and wellbeing during this period.
Some pupils and students who have difficulty engaging in remote education may be considered to be vulnerable children and young people and therefore eligible to attend provision. It is up to the child or young person’s education provider or local authority to make this decision. The decision would be based on the needs of the child or young person and their family, and a range of other factors as set out in the guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision#vulnerable-children-and-young-people. Lack of access to a device and/or the internet in itself does not automatically mean that the child is vulnerable.