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Education: Electronic Publishing

Question for Department for Education

UIN 115769, tabled on 16 November 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if the Government will reconsider its decision not to conduct an assessment of the academic publishing industry's pricing and licensing practices for ebooks in order to improve access to ebooks for schools and universities during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered on

19 November 2020

The government brought forward the zero rate of VAT on e-publications from December. The extension of the zero rate of VAT has been introduced to provide consistency in approach between certain physical and digital publications. This will make e-publications more affordable for schools and universities. The government keeps all taxes under review, including VAT. No assessment of the effect of the academic publishing industry’s pricing and licensing practices for ebooks is currently planned.

On 1 October, the department announced a further remote education support package, to help schools and further education (FE) providers meet the remote education expectations set out in guidance and direction.

Many elements of the support package are already in place and more will be available over the coming months to schools and FE providers. These can be accessed through the remote education service on GOV.UK at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/remote-education-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

The support package includes access to the right technology to deliver remote education, peer to peer training on how to use this effectively, and practical tools, good practice guidance and school-led webinars. This adds to existing support including the resources available from Oak National Academy, which provides video lessons across a broad range of subjects for every year group from reception to year 11: https://www.thenational.academy/. Oak National Academy will remain a free optional resource for the academic year 2020/21.

As part of over £195 million invested to support remote education and access to online social care, the department is making over 340,000 laptops and tablets available this term to support disadvantaged children whose face-to-face education may be disrupted.

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