Vulnerable Derbyshire pupils left waiting two months for government laptops

Vulnerable school pupils in Derbyshire were left waiting two months to receive laptops and internet access from the government to ensure they could keep up with schoolwork from home during lockdown.

The Department for Education (DfE) announced on April 19 that councils would be given laptops and tablets for ‘disadvantaged families, children and young adults who do not currently have access to them through another source, such as their school’.

Derbyshire County Council received its 2,558 laptops 59 days later on June 17 with only a negligible amount of the formal school year remaining and talk of catch-up programmes throughout the summer holidays.

It had received 450 4G dongles, providing internet access, only a week earlier on June 10.

Laptops and tablets have been provided for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils during lockdown

The county council said it had ordered its full allocated amount of devices and that the laptop delivery date had only slipped by two days.

Coun Jim Coyle, Labour’s shadow education spokesperson on the county council, said: “I find it quite remarkable that they could take so long to arrive.

“I could have one delivered online in the morning.

“Derbyshire children have, once again, been let down and disadvantaged by this Tory administration and despite the massive efforts of our teachers, our students will be paying the price for this Tory calamity for months and years to come.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We know being in school is vital for children’s education and wellbeing, which is why we are working towards all children returning to the classroom from September.

“The government has been clear in its commitment no child should fall behind as a result of coronavirus, which is why it has provided more than £100 million to support children to learn at home, including providing devices for eligible children that need them.

“It has also launched a £1 billion covid catch-up fund to directly tackle the impact of lost teaching time as a result of the pandemic, which headteachers and school leaders have the flexibility to decide how to spend in the best interests of their students.”

The DfE said it was prioritising the delivery of devices to the most vulnerable children first.

This includes children with a social worker and care leavers, who need access to online social services.

It says this will be followed by providing laptops and tablets for disadvantaged year ten children who do not have access to a device through other means.