Laptops target still unmet a month after pupils’ return

The Department for Education is still more than 4,000 devices short on delivering its target of free laptops for disadvantaged pupils.

A total of 1,295,752 laptops have now been delivered, but this is still 4,248 laptops short of the DfE’s target of 1.3 million.

The rollout of devices has been intended to help disadvantaged pupils access remote learning during lockdown – but almost 50,000 devices were still to arrive the day before schools reopened to all pupils on 8 March.

In January, nearly a fifth of headteachers reported that laptops provided to their pupils by the government had not worked as required.

Pre-pandemic data from broadcast regulator Ofcom suggested 9 per cent of children – between 1.1 and 1.8 million – did not have access to laptops, devices or tablets at home.

New data from the Department for Education shows that a total of 1,295,752 devices have been delivered or dispatched to support children to access remote education since the start of the pandemic.

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This only covered children “without home access”, rather than those without individual access, meaning the real figure is likely to be much higher.

Overall, 733,331 devices have been sent to councils, academy trusts, schools and colleges across England since the most recent lockdown began on 4 January.

The government pledged to provide 1.3 million digital devices to help disadvantaged children access remote education during the pandemic.

It also comes almost a year after education secretary Gavin Williamson first unveiled the government’s plan to provide free laptops to support remote learning during the first coronavirus lockdown. He told a Downing Street press conference on April 19 last year the government was “ordering laptops to help disadvantaged young people who sit key exams next year.”


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