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Remote Education: ICT

Question for Department for Education

UIN 166419, tabled on 10 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of continuing the scheme of providing disadvantaged pupils with devices and other technology post-lockdown.

Answered on

18 March 2021

The Department is providing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care. We are making available 1.3 million laptops and tablets to schools, colleges, trusts and local authorities, supporting disadvantaged children and young people who would not otherwise have access to a digital device.

As of 15 March 2021, over 1.2 million laptops and tablets have been delivered. More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/laptops-and-tablets-progress-data-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak. The Department has been publishing this data every week during term time, and the next publication will be Tuesday 23 March.

Once received, the laptops and tablets are owned by schools, trusts, local authorities or further education providers, which they can lend to children and young people who need them and are intended to enable schools to provide remote education. In the longer term, the Department expects that schools and colleges will continue to make effective use of the devices they have received.

Through the Department’s grant funded, Digital Platforms Programme, over 5,000 schools are now accessing either a Google or Microsoft digital platform for remote learning. Microsoft and Google platforms were chosen as they are free to use to the education sector and had the unified technology and support to set up and deliver effective remote education provision. The primary reason for selecting the Microsoft and Google platforms was that they are free to use to the education sector. Both platforms also have features and functionalities that are designed to be used for communication and collaboration that can assist teachers, pupils and students in remote education. The Department plans to examine the broader effect of the interventions we have put in place to support children and young people to continue their education during the COVID-19 outbreak.

From the 8 March, attendance is mandatory for all pupils of compulsory school age. Schools affected by the remote education temporary continuity direction are still required to provide remote education for pupils where their attendance would be contrary to government guidance or legislation around COVID-19. This includes, for example, where such guidance means that a class, group, or small number of pupils need to self-isolate, or that clinically extremely vulnerable children need to shield.

Where needed, schools are expected to offer pupils three to five hours of remote education. This includes either recorded or live direct teaching alongside time for pupils to work independently to complete assignments that have been set.

The Department has recently updated guidance and resources for schools around safeguarding and delivery of remote education, which can be accessed via Get Help with Remote Education available here: https://get-help-with-remote-education.education.gov.uk/safeguarding.