Pressure on government to provide laptops for infant lockdown learning

Suffolk County Council has dished out more than 800 laptops and 100 4G hotspots to help children with their schooling at...

Borough leaders say infant school pupils need digital devices to access learning at home during lockdown. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The government must provide laptops for infant school pupils, a group of the borough's political leaders have demanded.

Politicians have called on the government to provide laptops and tablets to support home learning at infant schools.

Councillors and MPs claim a government scheme to provide digital devices for remote education will prevent the youngest pupils from learning during lockdown.

It risks them falling behind at a crucial time in their development, they claim in a joint letter.

Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council Darren Rodwell, cabinet member for education Councillor Evelyn Carpenter, the MP for Barking, Margaret Hodge and the MP for Dagenham and Rainham Jon Cruddas wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Wednesday (January 13).

Gavin Williamson leaving No 10

Education secretary Gavin Williamson - Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

They raised concerns that the number of devices being allocated to a school is based on the number of disadvantaged pupils in year groups 3-11 - but the scheme doesn’t provide any support for younger pupils unless they have a social worker.

They say many children in the borough only have a parent’s phone, or no devices at all, at home to learn on and most schools don’t have the resources in their budget to provide laptops or tablets themselves.

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A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson told the Post: “The year groups targeted by this scheme were set following conversations with school leaders and on the basis that children in younger years would be unlikely to be working on a laptop or tablet independently.”

The council said children in the borough’s infant schools already access learning via iPads, IT and smartboards.

Yet, of the 3,491 devices received by schools in the borough, only three had been allocated to infant schools.

"They need to continue to access learning during lockdown,” the letter said.

“This is especially true given the emphasis now placed on online resources to keep in touch with families and track progress and wellbeing data. 

“If we fail on this, pupils will soon lose essential skills and understanding which may take many months to rebuild.” 

The DfE spokesperson said schools can spend their catch-up premium, funding provided by the government this academic year to support students who’ve lost learning due to Covid, on “contingency planning” such as buying extra devices or more textbooks.