Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced that the UK’s Department for Education will be providing disadvantaged children across England with a supply of laptops and tablets to help them study at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
The government says that the devices are intended for children in the most vital stages of their education (15-year-olds), for those who receive support from a social worker, and for care leavers.
Mr Williamson says “By providing young people with these laptops and tablets and enabling schools to access high-quality support, we will enable all children to continue learning now and in the years to come. We hope this support will take some of the pressure off both parents and schools by providing more materials for them to use.”
The government has also announced that it will be providing 4G routers to disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers where their families do not already have mobile or broadband internet in the household.
The UK government has also announced that it will be backing the funding of the Oak National Academy, a new enterprise created by 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England. The new online Academy will be providing 180 video lessons each week, across a range of subjects, for every year group from Reception through to Year 10.
At the end of March, the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) announced that it would be spending £2 million on 9,000 Chromebook laptops to help pupils in receipt of free school meals or with an education health and care plan (EHCP) to access its programme of digital learning.
UK non-profit ‘Brilliant Club’, which works with 800 schools and colleges across the UK to increase the number of pupils from underrepresented backgrounds progressing to highly selective universities, has also released a series of online resources, free of charge, which are suitable for pupils aged 10-18.
Education directly benefits business and the economy so, at a time when it is unclear when children will be able to return to school, having the resources, help, funding and infrastructure to enable online, remote learning is important for the future of young people and for the UK. It should be recognised, however, that challenges such as wealth gaps in education and exclusions like a lack of devices, the affordability of internet contracts and how a young person’s broadband status could affect their ability to keep up with learning do exist. It is, therefore, good news that the government has recognised this and is providing some practical help at a time that is particularly important in educational terms.