Nearly 900 laptops given to Suffolk children to help them through coronavirus home-learning
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Hundreds of laptops have been dished out to children in Suffolk to help them while learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department for Education’s Covid-19 technology scheme pledged to help support youngsters who did not have laptops or tablets to continue their education during the coronavirus lockdown, as schools switched to remote teaching.
Data for Suffolk published this week showed that 876 laptops, 128 4G hotspots and 68 tablets have been handed out between June and October – with disadvantaged and low income families in particular benefitting from the kit.
Suffolk County Council’s Conservative cabinet member for education, Mary Evans said: “Under the DfE Covid-19 technology scheme, SCC allocated 876 laptops, 68 tablets and 128 4G hotspots to children with social workers and care leavers who do not have adequate access to technology.
“These devices are empowering disadvantaged children to continue their learning and stay connected with services, friends and family in this difficult time where being in touch has never been more important. We are still continuing to distribute devices as need arises.
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“One child upon receiving a laptop said, ‘Thank you so much for this, I can’t wait to use it to catch up with my classes, study for my exams, and make my mum proud!’”
The laptops are owned by the council which is providing them as a loan to youngsters, but Mrs Evans’ report to full council this week said that “in practice, the council does not anticipate asking for them back”.
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The report added: “With judicious allocation based on need, the council has a sufficient stock to keep this initiative going as additional children are worked with by social care services.”
Elsewhere, some schools have been given laptops for their year 10 pupils who do not have access to computers in a related government scheme, to help them ahead of their exams next year.
However, Jack Abbott from the council’s opposition Labour group, raised fears over the gap children will have faced in their education.
He said: “It is encouraging that this equipment has finally started to reach the children who desperately needed it and we must not forget schools like Copleston High School, Ipswich Academy and Piper’s Vale who have been exceptional in providing hundreds of devices.
“However, it was a huge failure from the Government that their laptops and routers only started coming through three months after lockdown started. This is a devastating gap in a child’s education and represents yet another broken promise.
“We are now in October and the provision of less than 900 laptops and just 120 hotspots is unlikely to be anywhere near what is needed, given that 40,000 children were living in poverty in Suffolk before the pandemic, a situation that has since worsened.
“Throughout this pandemic, education has felt like an afterthought. With hundreds of children still having to self-isolate, it’s clear that the Government needs to do far more to close the digital divide and prevent further damage to the education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.”