The closure of mainstream schools and colleges due to an upsurge in Covid cases has prompted concerns over pupils` access to remote learning.
Despite the Department of Education (DfE)`s pledge to supply adequate devices required for “remote education”, headteachers, local councils and charities have warned that these devices will not reach many of those who need them. Children are being forced to start the school term without access to laptops, tablets and internet access, they argued.
Last year 560,000 laptops and tablets were given to schools by the government and a further 100,000 has been promised this week.
A Department of Education spokesperson said education has consistently been a national priority and the government had devised measures to prevent children from falling behind amid the Covid crisis.
Asked about the government’s provision of laptops, Linda Heiden, founder and chair of Lambeth TechAid, a voluntary group working to bridge the digital divide in the borough, said: “It’s a joke. They’ve only delivered a fraction of what they promised to schools, and what they promised to schools was for a tiny cohort of children in one or two-year groups.
Poor decision making by ministers have led to “ad-hoc closures” which would “presumably leave some of those students most in need of technical devices without them,” another headteacher said.
“Government have had nine months to fix this, and that [the fact that] we are facing another disrupted term of school where we cannot be confident of the ability of children to access learning at home is shameful,” Councillor Angela Mason said.
Lucy Thomson, director at Edde, a charity supporting UK schools with digital learning said the government should come up with an effective strategy for teaching pupils at home, rather than “over-promising” on laptop provision.