DfE pledges 300,000 more laptops – but unclear when they’ll be delivered

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The Department for Education has pledged to provide an additional 300,000 laptops and tablets to assist poorer pupils with remote learning, but has not said when they will all be delivered.

The announcement takes the total number of devices pledged to 1.3 million. Around 700,000 have so far been delivered to schools and councils. The DfE has also announced that all primary schools have now been invited to apply for devices. The scheme was previously only open to secondary schools.

The government will also today publish a remote education framework to help schools identify “strengths and areas for improvement” in online lessons.

Ministers have come under growing pressure to get more devices out to poorer families following the decision last Monday to close schools to all but the most vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

The DfE had already pledged in December to provide a million devices for schools and councils to distribute to those in need, and said last week it would deliver 750,000 by the end of this week.

The department claims it is on track to meet this target, with 700,000 devices delivered so far. Now it says it will distribute a further 300,000 on top of the million already pledged, taking the total spend on the programme to £400 million.

No target date set

The additional allocation will allow schools and colleges to apply for “top-ups to their original allocation”.

But no target date has been set for delivery of the remaining 550,000 devices, with the DfE pledging today to deliver some “by early February” and the rest “as quickly as possible thereafter”.

“I know just how difficult the past year has been for parents and teachers, now more so than ever,” said education secretary Gavin Williamson.

“I want nothing more than for every child to be in the classroom with their friends and teachers, but with that not possible we are doing everything in our power to support schools with high-quality remote education.”

The government has also announced it will publish a “remote education framework” for schools and colleges. It comes after the DfE increased the number of hours it expects schools to provide to pupils at home.

The frameworks “should be adapted by schools and colleges to fit their individual context”. They are “voluntary, and were developed in partnership with sector leaders”. The DfE said the frameworks will help schools identify “strengths and areas for improvement” in online lessons.

The commitment to provide a million devices was made last month, when Williamson promised an additional 440,000 devices on top of the 562,421 that had been delivered or dispatched by December 18. Around 340,000 of those were sent in the 2020-21 academic year..

Around 100,000 devices were sent out last week, leaving another 90,000 to be delivered this week to meet the 750,000 target.

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