Rise in IT kit gifted to struggling Wigan pupils

Dozens more laptops and tablets have been made available for disadvantaged children through Wigan’s education authority in recent weeks, figures show.

But the Association of School and College Leaders said progress has been “painfully slow”, and pupils who needed laptops during the lockdown have now been back in the classroom for over a month.

Department for Education data shows 5,131 laptops and tablets had been sent by the Government to Wigan Borough Council or its maintained schools by April 8.

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That was 90 more than were reported by March 14, an increase of two per cent.

Department for Education data shows 5,131 laptops and tablets had been sent by the Government to Wigan Borough Council or its maintained schools by April 8

Across England, 99.7 per cent of the 1.3 million laptops and tablets promised by the Government as part of the Get Help with Technology scheme have been distributed to disadvantaged young people during the pandemic.

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

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “The Government has been promising for months that it would deliver 1.3 million laptops to schools and we are now tantalisingly close to seeing that target achieved.

“We do not underestimate the scale of the Government’s logistical operation but the truth is they were slow to react in the first place, slow to get started and progress since has been painfully slow.”

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Barnardo’s said that, while action had been taken to provide technology to some of the poorest pupils, there were families still struggling without access to online services.

Javed Khan, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Barnardo’s partnered with Vodafone on the Great British Tech Appeal, to deliver laptops and data bundles to families forced to decide between feeding their children, heating their homes and paying for essential data.

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“Now we would urge the Government to establish a clear strategy, working with local agencies, charities, and corporate partners, to eliminate digital poverty in the very near future.

“This is central to ‘levelling up’ opportunities for all.”

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The DfE said the devices provided were vital in ensuring children and young people continued to access education and social care during the pandemic, and they will give schools flexibility to decide how they will be most usefully employed in the future.

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

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As well as laptops and tablets, 337 4G wireless routers have been given to Wigan Council to help families with limited internet access.

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