DfE works with Border Force to bring free laptops to UK

DfE responds to concerns about 'late' delivery of devices, saying they are being prioritised in shipments from overseas

Amy Gibbons

Coronavirus: The Border Force is helping with the government's scheme to supply free laptops to disadvantaged pupils, says the DfE

The government has said it is working with the Border Force to prioritise shipments of free laptops and tablet computers from overseas.

The Department for Education told Tes that it was working closely with the force to ensure that deliveries of the free devices for vulnerable and disadvantaged children were prioritised, so they can move through borders quickly.

The department was responding to concerns raised by the Sutton Trust charity about "reported delays" to the free laptops scheme.

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The trust said that, while it is "understandable" that the DfE has prioritised pupils sitting key exams next year, it should focus on ensuring that free laptops, tablets and routers are rolled out "quickly and efficiently" so disadvantaged children can access the technology "as soon as possible".

When Tes put the Sutton Trust's comments to the DfE, it said it was working with the Border Force on shipping the devices from overseas.

Coronavirus: Free laptops for disadvantaged pupils

The DfE announced on 19 April that "disadvantaged" children in Year 10, together with care leavers and those with social workers, would be given free devices in a bid to make remote learning during lockdown easier. But many schools say they have yet to be delivered.

More concerns that the laptops are "late" were raised in Parliament today. 

But speaking in the House of Commons, education secretary Gavin Williamson denied there were any delays to the scheme, and said 100,000 laptops had already been delivered.

"We are already in the process of rolling out IT equipment right across the school estate, as well as to those children who are most vulnerable," he said. 

"100,000 of those laptops have already been distributed to children who are most vulnerable and most disadvantaged. And we took the decision to ensure that they were prioritised over and above schools – those children who have social workers.

"We have got a further 75,000 computers that are going to be distributed to schools over the coming weeks, and we are on schedule to distribute the full 230,000 of those computers over the coming month, as on schedule."

Jonny Uttley, chief executive officer of multi-academy trust The Education Alliance, said: "While we welcome the good intentions of the department to address some of the gaps in availability of IT in the homes of some of our disadvantaged students, it is an enormous frustration that the delivery of this strategy has been so slow.

"Off the back of the fiasco of free school meals, disadvantaged students continue to suffer from an inefficient system. It is vital, as a country, that we prioritise supporting disadvantaged students whether they are in school or at home."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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