Coronavirus: Majority of free laptops won't be delivered until June

The first batch of free laptops and tablets for disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils won’t arrive until the end of May – with the majority being delivered in June.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson told the Parliamentary education committee this morning that the Department for Education would write to councils and academy trusts this week to give them “clear indications” of what they are due to receive.

“We expect the first laptops to be arriving at the end of May, with the majority delivered through June,” he said.

He also said that around 200,000 laptops will be delivered. This is the first time the number of free laptops has been publicised. The government will spend £85 million on the scheme.

It comes after the education secretary used an interview with Schools Week last week to reassure heads that laptops would reach pupils “within weeks”.

Williamson announced earlier this month that the government would provide free laptops, tablets and 4G dongles to certain pupils struggling to learn at home. The scheme is open to some disadvantaged year 10 pupils, care leavers and pupils with a social worker.

However, an initial delay to the application process last week prompted fears that the laptops may not reach pupils in time to help them with their education in this academic year.

Williamson told the committee today that the scheme was not just about helping pupils through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We do not see this rollout of digital equipment to be something that is just to deal with the challenge that we’re facing today,” he said.

“We see this as part of addressing the longer term problem in terms of helping children get what they need in terms of their learning as rapidly as possible over the summer period and going into the next academic year as well.”