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”.



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  1. Mark Watson

    So the DfE sent out over 200,000 laptops to disadvantaged children, reaching 88% of their target, and over 47,00 routers, reaching 95% of target. Given my experience of the public sector, let along Central Government, this would surely count as stellar performance. Not sure Mary Bousted would approve of your “sustained attack in the print and social media” against people trying to do their best in the most difficult of circumstances (as per her recent Opinion piece).

    Oh, and I pointed out in the article you link to that Williamson wasn’t actually “accused of being “asleep on the job” over his inability to explain plans” as the heading stated, but nice to see you doubling down on inaccuracy.

    • James Mook

      You might describe this as stellar, Mark, but I wouldn’t. The issue is not actually missing the target, as such, but the over promising and the use of it as political capital. Our order (of a sort, the DfE simply told us how many we were getting and didn’t listen when we said we weren’t getting enough) went in at the end of April.
      For month the government used the line about “laptops for the disadvantaged” regularly as an example of the support they were giving. Meanwhile schools were vilified by people such as Andrew Adonis for not offering live lessons, We had no contact from the DfE bar one “We will contact you about your laptops at the end of May or start of June.” They didn’t. We received the first 25 of the DfE laptops on Monday (29th June). We expect to get the others this week. Because we haven’t even been told what we were getting or what security work they may or may not need, we’ve not been able to fully prepare the parental contracts for when we lend them out. It’s been an utter mess, but as I say, the worst thing about it is the way it’s been used for political capital.
      Had they contacted me to say “we’re having difficulties, your delivery will be later than we hoped,” we’d have understood and been able to communicate this to parents. As it is, some parents wonder why “we” are not giving the laptops out.
      Your “stellar” performance is different to mind.

      • Mark Watson

        James, forgive my rather flippant use of the word “stellar”. The point I was trying to make is not that the DfE did a stellar job in this specific instance, but in my experience of where the public sector and political announcements cross over – achieving 90% of target by the stated deadline is unusual. I would agree that is not a good thing.

        And of course I have no knowledge to say whether 230,000 laptops is an appropriate number to be talking about if we are discussing how to help the pupils that need support, or if it should have been 500,000.

        That being said I think we need to be realistic. Politicians of every colour have always spun public announcements, praising themselves and their achievements to the ends of the earth and conveniently forgetting anything which could be considered negative. Again, I’m certainly not saying this is a good thing, and I think this has led to the current climate where I would suggest a large proportion of the population don’t take a politician’s statements as being reliable. I certainly take any statement from a Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, SNP MP (etc) with a pinch of salt and wait for it to be challenged and analysed before trying to understand the reality.

        Your comments support this. On the one hand you say the Government (Conservative) are making unhelpful and misleading public statements. On the other hand you refer to Andrew Adonis (a Labour man) also making unhelpful (and I would say misleading) public statements. They’re all at it.

        You seem to be saying you wanted more laptops than the DfE allocated to you. I’m sure that 99% of schools would agree. As a parent, I would always want my school to be asking for more than they were initially allocated – whether it’s laptops, books, food, or general funding. And as a parent I’d want them to get it, whilst as a taxpayer I recognise that there has to be a ceiling.

        In summary, could the ‘laptop scheme’ have been set up and run better and more efficiently, and could communications have been clearer and more helpful? Absolutely no question of doubt the answer is yes. But at the end of the day, I would point out that (a) however well it had been run I can guarantee people would still have complained about it, and (b) if the reports are accurate then there are 200,000 laptops out there which will get into the hands of kids who need them. It should have been done better, but at least something good has happened.

    • Under promise – over deliver. How long must a failed Sec. Defence need to to bear this sort of school boy error before he learns. Loads of free tech handed out – great – didn’t meet his own sound bite. Come on Gav work the numbers build some confidence. Not bright enough and not fleet of foot enough. Laughable. He won’t be in post after Christmas.

      • Mark Watson

        Oh dear, I’m agreeing with Bubs again!!

        Absolutely. There may well be a reason why 230,000 was set as the target but it’s a bit of an odd number. If he’d said 200,000 there would have been no greater or lesser reaction than there was to the announcement of 230,000 and he’d now be being showered with praise by SchoolsWeek for exceeding his target. (Only kidding, they’d have found another way to criticise him, but they’d have had to work a bit harder on it.)

  2. Antony Watts

    The total focus on Windows and Microsoft is disgusting. This is government promotion of a specific supplier and gives them a monopoly. It is useless to say you can chose an iPad as there is little use for this in an education setting where a keyboard/mouse is mandatory.

    The choice of low cost Windows laptops also give pupils a poor introduction to computing. Exacerbated by the DfE controls that are implemented.

    Goes without saying that I am an Apple MacBook user and grateful for it.