‘Digitally excluded’ pupils to get laptops before next term

The Scottish Government has been criticised for not distributing digital devices quickly enough.

‘Digitally excluded’ pupils to get laptops before next term Pixabay

Pupils who are “digitally excluded” should receive laptops to help them learn from home before the next school term starts, the First Minister has said.

It comes after criticism that the Scottish Government has not distributed digital devices quickly enough to assist vulnerable children while schools were shut.

Around £9m was spent on 25,000 digital devices to tackle “digital exclusion”, but work is continuing to determine exactly which pupils will receive them.

In a written answer to a question at Holyrood, education secretary John Swinney said that “laptops have not yet been issued to any children and young people”.

Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the roll-out of the devices at her daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.

She said: “What we’re doing is working with councils to identify the children most in need, the most digitally excluded.

“There’s no simple data set that allows us to do that so we want to make sure that these devices get to those who will benefit most from them.
“The aim is that they are allocated in that way before the new school term starts.”

She said the Scottish Government and local authorities are working to distribute the laptops.

Conservative MSP Alexander Stewart, who asked the Education Secretary about the devices in the Scottish Parliament, said vulnerable pupils have been let down.

He said: “This is an absolute disgrace and it means that children who are already suffering as a result of the attainment gap run the grave risk of being without access to education for nearly six months by the time our schools return.

“The SNP has always said that it would protect the most vulnerable of those to ensure they wouldn’t be left even further behind, but this current admission shows that it hasn’t even bothered about ensuring that the poorest pupils have access to digital learning, and this reveals an acute negligence at the heart of this Government.

“Simply put, these pupils have not been given the helping hand that they need – and have been promised – by the Scottish Government.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said schools are being encouraged to help the most disadvantaged children.

He said: “Local authorities and schools have put in place a range of approaches to tackle digital exclusion, such as repurposing school IT equipment and providing internet connectivity.

“In addition, we are investing £9m for 25,000 laptops – with internet access provided – for disadvantaged children to support learning outside school.

“This is the first phase of our £30m commitment to support digital inclusion.

“Learning hubs for vulnerable children and key workers will stay open over the summer, and meeting the learning needs of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds continues to be a priority as we plan for the safe reopening of schools.”

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