DfE fails to meet target of delivering 230k laptops by end of June

The Department for Education has failed on its promise of delivering 230,000 laptops to vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils by the end of June.

Last month, education secretary Gavin Williamson told parliament the laptops “would all be distributed by the end of June and we are on target to do that”.

The commitment was made amid accusations the government had been “asleep on the job” over its plans to help pupils catch-up amid coronavirus closures.

During the same hearing on June 9, Williamson reiterated the government was “on schedule to distribute the full 230,000 computers over the coming month”.

But new figures published today show 202,212 laptops have been delivered or dispatched as of yesterday (88 per cent of the government’s target). Of those, nearly a quarter were sent out in the past seven days.

The aim of the £85 million scheme, first announced over ten weeks ago in April, is to provide free laptops and tablets for disadvantaged year 10s and other vulnerable pupils.

The scheme has previously come under fire from school leaders who say it doesn’t cover the needs of vulnerable pupils – with some academy trusts being given an initial allocation of less than a fifth of what they need.

Following criticism in parliament last month, Williamson said: “The laptops that we promised to get out to vulnerable children and those who face exams in year 10 are on schedule. We said that they would all be distributed by the end of June and we are on target to do that.”

The DfE publication on the number of laptops it has delivered only states they have “ordered over 200,000 laptops”.

But Williamson confirmed in the commons last month the total amount was 230,000.

The government has also ordered over 50,000 4G wireless routers. As of yesterday, 47,416 had been delivered or dispatched.

A DfE spokesperson said they have delivered “over 200,000 laptops and tablets for the children who need them most, as promised, and will continue to make sure all children are supported as schools prepare to reopen in September.”

They said the delivery of laptops peaked at 27,000 in one 24-hour period, adding they were “manufactured and transported to the UK to meet the scale of the order”.