Vulnerable pupils in North Yorkshire received hundreds of laptops from Government during lockdown

Vulnerable children in North Yorkshire were allocated hundreds of laptops from the Government during the coronavirus lockdown, new figures reveal.

Tuesday, 25th August 2020, 1:40 pm
North Yorkshire County Council ordered 830 laptops and tablets, the maximum number they were allowed to. Photo: PA Images

The Department for Education provided 200,000 devices to local authorities and school trusts between May and July to help children access remote learning while schools were closed.

But the office of the Children’s Commissioner for England said the £100 million scheme, aimed at care leavers and pupils with social workers, failed to help hundreds of thousands more children.

Figures obtained by the organisation show North Yorkshire County Council ordered 830 laptops and tablets, the maximum number they were allowed to.

Simone Vibert, senior policy analyst at the CCO, said 9% of families in the UK do not have a laptop, desktop or tablet at home – a “digital divide” that became more apparent during the Covid-19 crisis.

She said: “During this pandemic, proper access to the internet is not a luxury for children having to learn at home, it is a necessity. The Government needs to ensure that all children are able to access education in the coming weeks and months.”

Though the devices were “very welcome”, the Children’s Commissioner Office estimated there are 540,000 children in groups eligible for the scheme, meaning many more missed out.

North Yorkshire was also allocated 176 4G hotspot devices, and 62 for Year 10 students.

Turn2us, a charity which helps people living in poverty, said digital skills that help children prepare for adult life are more important than ever following the coronavirus lockdown.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “For disadvantaged children whose education is disrupted in autumn term, we are initially providing an additional 150,000 laptops and tablets to schools, who will be best placed to pass these on to children who need them.

“Children will be returning to school full time in September and we have invested £1 billion in a Covid Catch Up Fund which will also provide one-on-one and small group tutoring for disadvantaged pupils.”

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