Disadvantaged pupils to get free computers to keep learning during lockdown

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds across England are to receive free laptops and tablets to help them learn from home during the lockdown.

The move is part of a push to make remote education accessible for pupils while their schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, a new online academy is also being launched to offer pupils 180 online lessons a week.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said 4G routers will also be provided to ensure disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers can access the internet where those families do not already have mobile or broadband internet.

The Oak National Academy will launch on Monday, having been created by 40 teachers from some of the leading schools in England in less than a fortnight.

Its 180 video lessons per week will cover a broad range of subjects including maths, arts and languages for pupils ranging in age from reception to Year 10.

Electronic devices will be ordered for pupils “in the most vital stages of their education for those who receive support from a social worker and care leavers”, the Department for Education said.

Mr Williamson said: “By providing young people with these laptops and tablets and enabling schools to access high quality support, we will enable all children to continue learning now and in the years to come.

“We hope this support will take some of the pressure off both parents and schools by providing more materials for them to use.”

Young people will be eligible for the devices if they do not already have one and either have a social worker or are care leavers, or are disadvantaged children in year 10, ahead of GCSEs next year.

The Department for Education said schools and colleges will be able to keep the laptops and tablets once they have reopened.

The Government said it would also make funding of £1.6 million available immediately for the NSPCC to expand and promote its national helpline for adults.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said: “Unfortunately home is not always the safest place for a child to be. With schools closed and teachers and social workers’ access to vulnerable children more limited, the onus is on all of us to recognise signs of abuse and neglect.

“The NSPCC helpline is a crucial cog in the child protection system and this funding will enable us to increase awareness of our team of experts across the country and to expand their capability to provide a safe and confidential space for adults concerned about children during the coronavirus crisis.”

The Ambition Institute, an education charity whose staff will advise teachers on making videos for the project, said it was delighted to have been invited to play a key role.

“Our team is ideally placed to support teachers delivering lessons effectively online, building on their existing expertise in the classroom,” Ambition’s chief executive Hilary Spencer said in a statement.

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