Coronavirus lockdown: Laptops offered for online school lessons at home
Disadvantaged teenagers in England will be able to borrow laptops to help them study at home when schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Education also supports free online lessons for primary and secondary school pupils.
Laptops or tablets will be provided for some disadvantaged 15-year-olds who do not already have access to a computer.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it will “take the pressure off” of parents with children at home.
“Schools will remain closed until scientific advice changes,” said Williamson.
To help parents who now run their own classrooms, the government is promoting a series of 180 online lessons per week, for pupils from reception through to the 10th year.
Laptops or computer devices will be provided for some disadvantaged pupils in the tenth year who will take their GCSEs next year.
There is no specified number of laptops available or a fixed budget and it will be up to schools or local authorities to decide who needs help with accessing a computer.
They will also be available for children with a social worker or those leaving care – with schools keeping computers when regular lessons are open again.
There are also some 4G routers on offer to help families connect to the Internet.
Promises about technology reflect concerns that pupils from poorer families may lose disproportionately during their weeks out of school.
AET trusted institution, AET, has already purchased 9,000 laptops and devices to supply a computer to all its students eligible for free school meals, so they can stay connected.
For pupils learning at home, online lessons have been prepared by teachers and educational organizations, including Sutton Trust and Teach First, and will be available under the Oak National Academy label.
These will be one-hour lessons in a series of topics, presented by a teacher, with worksheets and a quiz.
The BBC will also launch a range of online and TV educational resources.
Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL directors’ union, welcomed efforts to maintain pupil learning.
He drew attention to the 10th year pupils who were missing part of their GCSE course and stated that there had to be a “real sense of urgency” in supporting them.
But he said it’s important to recognize how many families may not have updated computers or may have difficulty paying for broadband.
There are still “significant logistical challenges” with this support scheme, said Paul Whiteman, leader of the National Teachers Association.
“Last but not least, the speed with which these devices can be purchased and delivered,” he added.
Anne-Marie Canning, CEO of the Brilliant Club that helps disadvantaged young people to reach the best universities, said that access to technology was already a wealth gap in education.
“Digital exclusion takes many forms, ranging from the lack of devices to the economic accessibility of Internet contracts,” he said.
Being able to keep up with the lessons shouldn’t depend on the “broadband state,” said Canning.
Williamson said, “By providing young people with these laptops and tablets and allowing schools to access high-quality support, we will allow all children to continue studying.
“We hope this support will reduce the pressure on both parents and schools a little bit by providing them with more materials to use,” said the education secretary.