The government has expanded its programme offering laptops, tablets and 4G to include pupils who are shielding and won’t be able to return to classrooms this autumn.
Between May and July, the government’s programme distributed 200,000 devices and 4G wireless routers to local authorities and trusts for pupils in year 10, care leavers and young people with a social worker.
The expanded scheme aims to ensure that children and young people who are shielding can access remote education when the September term begins.
The scheme will also step in and offer devices to children in certain year groups if schools are forced to close due to a local outbreak.
Although all schools are still on summer holiday, local lockdowns have been in force in Leicester, Greater Manchester, Preston, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire in recent weeks. Writing in the Mail on Sunday last week, prime minister Boris Johnson said: “Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than is absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible.”
He is also understood to have said that schools should be the last to close in any potential future local lockdowns, the BBC reported.
Although parents, carers and pupils can’t access the new scheme themselves, schools can apply on behalf of learners who meet the scheme’s criteria.
In the event of further coronavirus disruption, the Department for Education (DfE) will provide devices for children who would otherwise not be able to access remote education, such as those who only have access to a smartphone. Children in years 3 to 11 will be eligible and school leaders will be responsible for identifying those in need and managing the loan of devices.
Even in the event schools nationwide remain open throughout the autumn term, pupils who are undergoing treatment or are shielding will not be able to go back to school. The government said these clinically vulnerable children will be part of its device allocations.
The package announced by the DfE also includes support for those requiring internet access through free BT WiFi hotspots and increased mobile data allowances. Ministers are also directing schools to the LGfL’s EdTech Demonstrator Programme, which features advice and professional guidance on remote education technology resources.