Thousands more laptops for Lancashire children

Unions worried the scheme still not helping enough youngsters

Thousands more laptops and tablets have been made available for disadvantaged children through Lancashire’s education authority over the past three weeks, figures show.

School leaders’ union the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) say younger primary school children are still missing out on the £400m scheme.

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Department for Education data shows 15,752 laptops and tablets had been sent by the Government to Lancashire County Council or its maintained schools as of February 7.

Thousands more laptops and tablets given for disadvantaged children in Lancashire

That was 2,888 more than the 12,864 reported on January 17, an increase of 22 per cent.

The figures do not include devices allocated to academy trusts, as they are not maintained by the local authority.

Across England, 987,000 laptops and tablets have so far been distributed for disadvantaged young people during the pandemic by the Government as part of the Get Help with Technology scheme, out of 1.3m being provided.

The distribution, which was accelerated at the start of this year, has been welcomed by the NAHT, but officials say many primary school children are still missing out.

The situation has led to many primary schools, as well as secondaries, running appeals for device donations in their local communities.

NAHT director of policy, James Bowen, said: “While it is good to see more devices being delivered to pupils that need them, the Government has still failed to answer why it has excluded younger pupils from the scheme.

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“We know that younger primary pupils are using technology to access remote learning too so why are the Government ignoring these children when it comes to providing them with the technology they need?”

The number of laptops and tablets allocated for schools is decided by calculating how many children are eligible for free school meals and using an estimate of devices the school and children already have.

Schools can ask for additional devices.

Children are classed as disadvantaged if they have no digital devices or are sharing a single device in their household, or they only have access to a smartphone.

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As well as laptops and tablets, 1,219 4G wireless routers have been given to Lancashire County Council to help families with limited internet access.

Pupils across England have been told to learn remotely due to restrictions over Covid-19. Only children of key workers and vulnerable pupils are exempt.

This week, a DfE spokesperson said: “We continue to provide laptops and tablets at huge speed and scale for those children who need them the most.”

They added: “This is helping ensure children can continue to receive the best possible education while at home.

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“Schools remain open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers, but if critical workers can work from home and look after their children at the same time then they should do so.”