DfE pledges another 440k laptops by Easter


The government has bought a further 440,000 laptops to distribute to schools, it has been announced today.

It will take the number of laptops bought by the government for schools to over one million, pushing the cost of the scheme up to £300 million.

However, new figures published alongside the announcement show the National Tutoring Programme has so far only enrolled a quarter of the 250,000 pupils promised catch-up.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said “scaling up” the laptop and tutoring scheme is “so important”.

“Providing one million devices is a hugely significant achievement, not only in the context of supporting children through the pandemic, but an investment in tech for our schools, colleges and children for years to come,” Williamson said.

From January 4, all secondary schools will be invited to order devices – even if they have not had to send pupils home to self-isolate.

Primary schools will be invited to order their allocation if they have disruption to face-to-face education. Over the “coming months”, all schools and colleges will be invited to order their laptop allocations.

The government said devices are currently delivered within two working days, and “that will remain the case going into the first week of January”.

The Department for Education said the “vast majority” would be delivered by Easter.

The roll-out follows the announcement of a staggered start to on-site education after the Christmas break.

The programme will also be extended to include 16 to 19-year-olds in schools and further education.

Meanwhile, the government has said its tutoring programme will be ramped up in spring. Figures released today show the NTP, following its launch in November, has enrolled 62,000 pupils.

This is just a quarter of the 250,000 pupils it’s promised to reach this year. The DfE said the programme will reach “hundreds of thousands of pupils by the summer, ensuring those who have suffered the most from lost learning, including those in exam year groups, have the greatest opportunity to catch up”.

A total of 188 academic mentors, under a separate strand of the £350 million catch-up programme, have been recruited, with an estimated 7,000 pupils reached. More than 500 more mentors are set to join schools in January, with another cohort in February.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), which runs the NTP, said it was “good to see the programme get-off to such a promising start, with over 60,000 pupils enrolled since its launch six weeks ago… By building on these strong foundations, the NTP will prove to be a powerful tool for tackling the attainment gap.”

The DfE has also partnered with mobile operators to provide free data to disadvantaged families without internet at home. Schools can request free, additional data for those pupils under the Get Help with Technology programme until July.

The level of additional data will vary by provider, but is at 20 gigabytes per month for EE customers. Other providers signed up include Three, Tesco Mobile, Smarty, Sky Mobile and Virgin Mobile.

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