Primary school headteachers have been told they cannot order the laptops they need for remote learning from the Department for Education yet despite a national lockdown coming into force that means most pupils are already at home.
Headteacher Michael Tidd has revealed that when he tried to order – on the DfE website – the allocation his school needed to deliver remote learning, a message came up which said that while secondaries can order extra devices, primaries will be contacted when they are able to place orders for theirs.
The NAHT school leaders' union said: "The government really has let young people down miserably on this one."
The delay in accessing devices comes after Boris Johnson announced that schools are closing to most pupils in a new national lockdown that comes into force tomorrow.
And last night the Department for Education sent out guidance to schools setting out what the government expects from teachers through remote learning during the lockdown.
Coronavirus: Primary schools wait for laptops
Mr Tidd, head of East Preston Junior School, in West Sussex, told Tes that he was aware of two other school leaders who had received the same message about primary schools being unable to place orders today.
And he warned that primary schools will not be able to deliver remote learning to pupils without access to the allocation of laptops they had been promised.
He said: “Our allocation of laptops was cut back and then increased again but until now we have not been able to order them because we did not meet the criteria for the number of pupils off
"But now schools are closed to most pupils, presumably all schools will meet the criteria for laptops and will need them now. They must have known that this situation could be coming.
“We think the 17 laptops we have been allocated will be enough for us, because we have had some donated when this issue was highlighted previously and because most pupils will not be in school, we will be able to send some of our own devices home to pupils.
"But when I have tried to place the order, we get a message which says, ‘We will contact primary schools when they are able to place their orders.'
Helpful.— Michael Tidd (@MichaelT1979) January 5, 2021
We'll look forward to providing the statutory remote education whenever you're ready, DfE. pic.twitter.com/BvnMDn5eYb
“This is very frustrating. We have all known since October, when a statutory duty was placed on schools to provide remote learning, that we needed to have our plans ready but schools cannot deliver these plans if the DfE cannot provide schools with the laptops they need to begin with.”
Mr Tidd, a Tes columnist, posted on social media, saying: “We'll look forward to providing the statutory remote education whenever you're ready, DfE.”
In an email sent to schools last night, the DfE listed its expectations for remote learning.
This included schools being told to provide frequent, clear explanations of new content, delivered by a teacher or through high-quality curriculum resources or videos.
Mr Tidd's school has been allocated 17 laptops. Last year it saw this allocation reduced to three devices but the DfE has since restored schools' planned allocations.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, said: “We are very concerned that the government won’t be able to supply enough laptops to meet demand.
"We’re into the ninth month of the pandemic and many schools and pupils are still waiting for their allocation to come through, so the government really has let young people down miserably on this one.”
The DfE has been approached for a comment.