‘A long shadow on our children’s future’: Town hall chiefs slam government over lack of laptops for poorer pupils in Barking and Dagenham

Armed Forces Day plans have been shared by the council. Picture: Luke Acton

Armed Forces Day plans have been shared by the council. Picture: Luke Acton - Credit: Archant

Town hall chiefs have slammed the government over providing poorer pupils with laptops to help with schoolwork.

Barking and Dagenham Council leader, Cllr Darren Rodwell, and his education chief, Cllr Evelyn Carpenter, have said families without access to computers feel “deeply frustrated” at an alleged lack of government support.

“Our council, schools and parents care passionately about the future of these children. It is time for the government to step up and show their commitment too”, the pair say in a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson.

The Department for Education had offered 1,000 devices in an initial assessment of the borough’s needs, but the local authority said it needed hundreds more.

The Labour Party councillors add: “Many of these children are young carers, or part of shielding households, or suffering bereavement.

“The government’s failure to deliver on its promise of providing laptops has added to their pain at this difficult time”.

They welcomed the work of charities working with poorer families and those with vulnerable children to improve access to technology.

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But the town hall chiefs said it should not be the voluntary or private sector’s responsibility to make up for what ministers should have provided.

The borough’s teachers, parents and pupils are praised in the letter for adapting to the impact of schools closing, but Mr Williamson is urged not to ignore the ongoing impact of children not having access to work.

“The long term impact of Covid-19 threatens to cast a long shadow on our children’s future”, they wrote.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This week, secondary schools have begun welcoming back year 10 and year 12 pupils as part of a phased and cautious plan. They will also be able to invite other students in for face-to-face meetings.

“The government has already committed over £100 million to support children to learn at home, and pupil premium funding at the highest ever rate per pupil continues to be paid to help schools support their disadvantaged pupils.

“We are also considering, with a range of partner organisations, what more is required to support all pupils who have been affected by school closure. We will do whatever we can to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus.”