Scheme to rollout 700,000 devices to school pupils in Scotland gets under way

Scottish education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has commenced discussions with local government to deliver the national initiative

A scheme proposed by the Scottish government to equip 700,000 school pupils with devices has launched.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, education secretary for Scotland, announced that conversations with local government on how best to deliver the initiative have already begun, emphasising that Scottish ministers are reviewing how they could implement consistent and reliable digital infrastructure across the nation’s 2,500 school sites.

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“Every child has the right to an education and we believe that means an education supported and enhanced by technology,” said Somerville of the scheme. “This is a vital aspect of an education system in the digital age which was clearly demonstrated by the pandemic.

“This is a hugely ambitious programme of work that will build on efforts to tackle digital inclusion during the pandemic. These early talks with Scottish councils are a positive step towards delivering this commitment.”

“This is a hugely ambitious programme of work that will build on efforts to tackle digital inclusion during the pandemic” – Shirley-Anne Somerville, Education Secretary, Scotland

Pre-pandemic, the government regulator Ofcom estimated that 9% of young people, equating to somewhere between 1.1 and 1.8m, did not have access to a suitable laptop, desktop or tablet at home. The figure is likely to be larger in reality, as it considers only those who have a device in the home and not the number of people per household who need to use it.

Additionally, the Sutton Trust found that just 5% of state school teachers believe all their students have adequate access to a device they can use to complete online schooling, with respondents also citing concerns for how this could influence the growing attainment gap in schools.

The Department for Education (DfE) launched a similar device delivery scheme in the UK in an attempt to quell the nation’s digital divide – a strategy that’s been marred by delivery delays, lack of technical support, outdated legacy equipment, and meagre funding.

Henjie Wang, CEO and co-founder of digital learning platform Kami, lauded Scotland’s efforts to equip school students across the country with a laptop or tablet device, stating that he hopes to see similar initiatives take effect across the UK.

“As schools look for ways to help students catch up from what many fear to have been a lost year in education, there is an opportunity to aid this, and students’ success in their future careers, by putting technology at the heart of teaching practices.

“Especially as we enter an uncertain Autumn term where isolation rules are still in play, schools need to think seriously about how they can reallocate the huge figures spent on paper into delivering a digital-first education – including training programmes for teachers, investing in software solutions, and putting a device into the hands of every pupil.”

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