A leading social mobility charity has said it is concerned about "delays" to the government's free laptops scheme.
While it is "understandable" that the Department for Education 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", according to the Sutton Trust.
The charity has also called for the scheme to be expanded to include "all disadvantaged children", as it says the attainment gap is known to increase throughout school.
Coronavirus: DfE won't say who will get free laptops
The Department for Education announced on 19 April that "disadvantaged" children in Year 10, together with care leavers and those with social workers, will be given free devices in a bid to make remote learning during lockdown easier.
Coronavirus: Free laptops to help online learning
Reflecting on the scheme as part of a response to the Commons Education Select Committee’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on children’s services and education, the Sutton Trust said: "The trust welcomes the government’s scheme to provide laptops and internet access for children with social workers, care leavers and disadvantaged pupils in Year 10.
"Given the urgency of the situation, it is understandable that the government initially prioritised pupils sitting important exams. However, the trust is concerned by reported delays to the scheme.
"The government should work to ensure the scheme is rolled out quickly and efficiently so that young people are able to use this technology as soon as possible.
"We would also like to see the scope of the scheme expanded – ideally to include all disadvantaged children – as we know that the attainment gap opens early and increases throughout school.
"As we move into a phase where schools may be only open to some pupils, the government must ensure that all children have the resources necessary to access online learning, including a laptop or other suitable device, as well as a stable internet connection.
"This could be achieved through further collaboration with companies in the technology sector to offer low-cost options."
Headteachers have previously said it is "vital" that the government's free laptops scheme is "expanded rapidly" to include disadvantaged children in more year groups.
A DfE spokesperson said: "We will do whatever we can to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus.
"The government has already committed over £100 million to support pupils with remote education, including to provide laptops, tablets and 4G wireless routers to disadvantaged children and young people.
"Devices are being delivered to local authorities daily and will continue to be distributed throughout June.
"We are also considering, with a range of partner organisations, what more is required to support all pupils who have been affected by school closures."