Disadvantaged children and young people across West Sussex have been receiving new devices to support at-home learning through Covid-19. The programme, now in its seventh week, has seen 4,838 devices delivered across the county. This figure doesn’t include the hundreds of laptops provided to local academy trusts and the 258 received by Chichester College Group. Nationally the scheme has distributed more than one million laptops and tablets, as part of a £400 million government investment that will support schools and young people for years to come.
Official statistics show the government has delivered 1,055,745 laptops and tablets to the children who need them most to help make sure their education can continue during the pandemic.
Thousands of families have also received additional data from mobile operators, following the Department for Education’s work to help children without internet access get online. This has supported access to educational resources to help children while most are being educated from home.
The news comes after last months announcement of a further 300,000 laptops and tablets to expand the programme and help even more disadvantaged children and young people learn at home.
Chichester’s MP and Education Minister Gillian Keegan said,
“All our local schools, teachers and parents have gone above and beyond to continue education remotely. These devices are an education lifeline as each laptop or tablet represents a child's continued access to education and the impact that will have is immeasurable.
Our key focus is to get children and young people back to school as soon as possible, and we will, but this programme has ensured education has continued where it otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Work to deliver remote learning will lay the foundations for a long-term strategy to take advantage of the opportunities technology presents. The substantial number of devices provided, along with other initiatives such as the EdTech Demonstrator Programme, mean children access support for years to come.
The 1.3 million devices the government is providing sits alongside a package of extensive support for the most disadvantaged children. This includes partnering with the UK’s leading mobile network operators to provide free data to disadvantaged families, alongside a further £300 million being invested in tutoring programmes building on the existing £1bn Covid Catch Up Fund.
In addition, the Oak National Academy has been ‘zero rated’ by eleven major telecoms providers, including Vodafone, O2, Three, and BT. This means no data charges will apply if lessons from the country’s online classroom are accessed through a mobile phone from participating providers.
Julian David, Chief Executive Officer of techUK, said:
“Securing 1.3 million devices for disadvantaged children and young people in these challenging times, and delivering over one million, is a testament to how the UK tech industry and government have pulled together to support families that need help the most.
“The devices programme is a great example of industry and government collaboration, which will help children's futures for generations to come. I’m keen to deepen this collaboration and see it go even further, and the tech industry stands ready and eager to provide further support for this critical mission."
Leora Cruddas, Chief Executive Officer of the Confederation of School Trusts, said:
“The milestone of 1 million laptops is really important. Teachers and leaders have worked extraordinarily hard to provide pupils with high quality remote education during the lockdown. Schools are doing their utmost to support these pupils, including through the teacher-led Oak National Academy. We support the Government’s ambition to make sure all pupils can access high quality teaching, at home and in school, and will work closely with Government to continue to improve access and connectivity.”
In addition, the Department has also made £4.84 million available for Oak National Academy to provide video lessons in a broad range of subjects for Reception up to Year 11. This will all help to make sure there is as little impact as possible on children’s education while they are learning from home.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that the current attendance restrictions in schools and colleges will remain in place until 8 March at the earliest.
Children of critical workers and vulnerable children and young people will still be able to attend schools and colleges, including special schools and alternative provision. Early years settings also remain open.