PM refuses to commit to free laptops for all FSM pupils

Boris Johnson's comments come despite calls from headteachers for a 'rapid expansion' of DfE's free laptops scheme

Amy Gibbons

Remote learning during Covid-19 crisis

The prime minister has refused to commit to providing free laptops for all children on free school meals.

Boris Johnson was asked today during prime minister's questions if he would give the government time to pass a cross-party bill pledging devices for all pupils on free school meals, but declined to make such a commitment.

This is despite calls from headteachers for a "rapid expansion" of the free laptops scheme to include disadvantaged children in more year groups.

Heads: Call for 'rapid expansion' of free laptops scheme

Stats: DfE misses free laptops target by nearly 30,000

Background: Free laptops for disadvantaged pupils

Free devices are currently available to disadvantaged pupils in Year 10, those who receive support from a social worker, and care leavers.

Addressing the prime minister in the House of Commons this afternoon, Siobhain McDonagh, Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, said: "Year 6 children on free school meals are nine months behind their better-off classmates.

"By GCSE year, that extends to 18 months. Seven-hundred thousand children have had no access to the internet for schoolwork during the lockdown.

"If the prime minister is sincere about wanting to level-up and make this country good for everyone, will he give government time to pass a cross-party bill, giving internet access and devices to all children on free school meals?"

Mr Johnson replied: "I passionately support the objective of making sure that there is IT fairness and all kids have access to the technology that they need.

"We've rolled out huge numbers of laptops across the country to pupils on free school meals."

He added: "The most important thing that I think should happen now is that all pupils in Year 6 should now be back in school, and it's still very disappointing they…we haven't had an unequivocal declaration of support for the safety of schools from the party opposite."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, previously said it is "vital" that the government's free laptops scheme is "expanded rapidly" to include disadvantaged children in more year groups.

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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