Coronavirus: MAT invests £2m in tech for poorer pupils

AET will buy 9,000 additional devices to ensure pupils eligible for free school meals can access digital learning during the coronavirus outbreak

Catherine Lough

child using i-pad

One of the largest academy trusts in the country has said it will invest £2m for the provision of devices for poorer pupils while schools remain closed from the coronavirus epidemic.

The Academies Enterprise Trust will purchase 9,000 additional chrome-books and devices so that pupils with an Education and Healthcare Plan (EHCP) and those who are eligible for free school meals will be able to access digital learning while schools remain shut.

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The trus has set up Google Classroom for all 32,000 pupils in its schools.

The investment will mean the trust has 16,000 devices, 1,500 of which are for staff. The remaining 14,500 will be prioritised for pupils on free school meals and pupils with an EHCP, representing around 25 per cent of pupils in the trust's academies. 

These devices will be made available to pupils after Easter at the start of the summer term, the trust said.

Julian Drinkall, chief executive of AET said: “Until now Edtech was viewed by many as a luxury, but it’s clear today that it is a necessity.

"AET is fortunate in having some of the sector’s leading digital learning experts in-house, and so we’ve perhaps been more prepared than others have for school closures.  

“But of course, you can have the best digital learning strategy in the world, the best content, and brilliantly trained teachers to deliver it, but if pupils can’t access it at home, then they will learn nothing.

“Having spent the last few years rebuilding AET’s finances from a low point of £8m annual deficits, we are now in a position to be able to invest some of our surpluses in new devices so that every child can access the education they have a right to.”

The trust has also provided training for staff on how to use Google tools for digital learning, and created 15 days of live streaming lessons for Years 5 and 6 and Year 10 and 11 in English and maths since the outbreak of Covid-19. 

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Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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