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Remote Education: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 117934, tabled on 19 November 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what risk assessment on potential exposure to online harms his Department conducted in relation to the provision of Government-funded laptops for remote learning during the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered on

27 November 2020

As part of over £195 million invested to support remote education and access to online social care, over 340,000 laptops and tablets are being made available this term to support disadvantaged children in Years 3 to 11 whose face-to-face education may be disrupted.

This supplements over 220,000 laptops and tablets and over 50,000 4G wireless routers, which have already been delivered during the summer term. This represents an injection of over 500,000 laptops and tablets by the end of the year.

Where Windows laptops and tablets are ordered with a Department for Education build, they will come with content filtering and device management software, just as with the laptops and tablets we distributed earlier this year. This filters out web content that might be inappropriate or illegal for children. The Department took advice from the Chief Information Security Officer, external security consultants and the National Cyber Security Centre, ensuring devices are safe and secure for children.

Schools can choose to order a Windows device without a Department for Education build. If this option is selected it is the responsibility of the local authority, academy trust or school to ensure appropriate safeguarding, security and privacy of the device before it is lent to the child. In addition, links to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection website and advice on using the internet safely are pre-loaded onto the laptops and tablets.

The 4G wireless routers provided include active content filtering services, which prevent users of the laptops and tablets from accessing types of content that pose risks to children.

Keeping children safe online is essential and we all must play our part as we continue our response to COVID-19. Schools and colleges must continue to pay regard to the statutory safeguarding guidance, Keeping Children Safe in Education, when carrying out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of children – both online and offline. The revised Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance, which came into force on 1 September, includes additional information and support to help schools and colleges keep children safe online. It includes for the first time a dedicated collection of resources to support safe remote education, virtual lessons and live streaming. It also includes support for schools and colleges to signpost parents and carers to help them keep their children safe online. The guidance is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/keeping-children-safe-in-education--2?utm_source=936e83f0-b458-4d7d-82cd-3ce68cde0fdf&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate.

The Department’s guidance for full opening of schools includes signposting to resources to support the delivery of safe remote education and is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

Training and guidance from the EdTech Demonstrator Network on ways to keep pupils safe online is also available for all schools.