Gibb: Free laptops scheme is a 'great success story'

Schools minister welcomes scrutiny of DfE scheme that has come under fire over delays, missed targets and cuts
8th December 2020, 2:45pm
Amy Gibbons

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Gibb: Free laptops scheme is a 'great success story'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/gibb-free-laptops-scheme-great-success-story
Minister Nick Gibb Says Dfe Free Laptops Scheme For School Pupils Has Been A 'success'

The government's free laptops scheme has been a "great success story for this country", the schools minister has claimed.

The Department for Education scheme, providing free devices for disadvantaged children stuck at home during the pandemic, has come under fire for a series of perceived failures since it was launched in April.

But schools minister Nick Gibb said he hoped the programme would be scrutinsed, as it was a "great success".


Related: Anger at 'massive' DfE cut to school laptop allocations

New criteria: Schools can't order free laptops for pupils on rotas

Revealed: How DfE free laptops failed to match need


Ten days after the scheme was announced on 19 April, education secretary Gavin Williamson said the laptops wouldn't begin to arrive until the end of May, with the majority being delivered in June.

On 9 June, Meg Hillier, Labour chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, raised concerns about delays to the scheme.

Delays in delivering free laptops

But the education secretary refuted her claims, arguing that the DfE was "on target" to deliver all the devices by the end of the month.

By 14 June, just over half of the free laptops pledged by the department had yet to be delivered.

Meanwhile, headteachers complained that the free laptops for disadvantaged pupils were arriving at schools "locked" and unusable.

The DfE went on to miss the education secretary's delivery target by nearly 30,000.

In July, Tes revealed that the government allocated at least 4,000 fewer free laptops and tablets than councils said they needed.

And in the week before pupils were due to go back to school in September, the DfE had still yet to meet the target it set to deliver 230,000 laptops to local authorities and academy trusts by the end of June.

More devices have been pledged in stages by the DfE for the autumn term, earmarked for disadvantaged children required to stay at home due to Covid.

But the extended scheme also proved controversial when the department cut schools' laptop allocations just a day after they were given a legal duty to ensure that pupils had instant access to remote education.

Addressing the education committee today, in response to a question from Conservative MP Christian Wakeford, Mr Gibb said: "We're buying over half a million computers. You can't just go down to PC World, even a big branch, and say, 'I want 20,000 computers for this region' - they just won't have them. We've had to have these computers built from scratch and had them shipped in.

"There was one day last summer where 27,000 computers were being delivered in one day to schools and local authorities around the country. So it's a huge operation.

"I do hope you will look into what happened, because it's a great success story for this country to have procured so many computers in such a short time."

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