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This from Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary, Isle of Wight – National Education Union. Ed
‘800 already given with another 780 allocated’ as explained in ‘Cabinet member rebuts claims about lack of laptops for school children’ (OnTheWight, 11.1.21) sounds impressive – but it’s not the full story.
During the summer term the DfE delivered a total of 546 devices (laptops or tablets) and 104 routers to disadvantaged Year 10 pupils and those children with a social worker or care leaver, i.e. someone who has spent time in foster or residential care.
Since September, another 282 have been delivered and hopefully already distributed to pupils. Not including routers and non-maintained schools, that makes 828 provided to the majority of Island schools – the 42 maintained schools.
780 allocation not here yet
The 780 allocation is not yet here, so our pupils are waiting. Before they eventually receive their laptops, as they ‘technically’ belong to each individual school, the software belonging to each school needs to be uploaded.
When and will they arrive? Last August, school leaders awaited the next delivery, looking forward to providing their disadvantaged pupils with more laptops.
DfE cut allocations
However, without warning in October, the DfE cut allocations by up to 80%. This backtrack rationing of laptops for disadvantaged children was appalling. Could it happen again?
There was a shortage in lockdowns 1 and 2 and again continuing in lockdown 3. Provision of laptops is merely one of many examples where Government has disappointed those in education.
Jones-Evans right to ask the question
Cllr Julie Jones-Evans is right to ask whether provision is enough. Months after the first lockdown, the need remains, especially as the pandemic will have likely impacted negatively on the latest child poverty figures – the 7,311 Island children living in poverty in 2018/19 (End Child Poverty).
That we are still weeks away from an adequate rollout of what has been promised and even longer away from what is needed, is abundantly clear.
Schools kept waiting throughout this pandemic
Schools have been kept waiting for the promised equipment throughout this pandemic, with last minute delays, changes or retractions, which alarmingly has become an unsupportive normalised response from the DfE.
How many extra laptops have schools provided from their own limited supplies? We must not forget too, that laptops are not indestructible – both hardware and software will need regular school IT technician time to maintain and repair.
How many children will still be waiting?
Every one of those 7,311 Island children will likely have needed access to equipment since the pandemic started, even more so if lockdown lengthens.
Do we even know how many children still will not have access to laptops, after the 780 allocation arrives? That’s assuming the DfE doesn’t cut allocations as they did in October.
Ryde Academy inform News OnTheWight that they have given out 214 Chromebooks and 29 dongles to students. Ed