Wiltshire Council is allocating £1.1m of government COVID-19 funding to buy laptops and digital devices for disadvantaged pupils who currently can’t join classmates learning from home.
The decision to allocate the funding to buy around 2,500 devices means these children will be able to access their school lessons from home rather than have to attend school to do so.
Currently pupils who do not have a laptop can attend school alongside children of key workers and vulnerable students. The new approach will help manage school spaces and continue to help prevent COVID-19 transmission.
Cllr Laura Mayes, Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Skills, said: “It is essential our children and young people can continue to be taught and have an education in these difficult times as well as being able to maintain links with friends and have face to face contact with their teachers. With the news this week that schools will close we are aware there are families and young people out there who are left without the means to access that education and this is not acceptable.
“By using our government COVID-19 funding in this way we are ensuring families are not disadvantaged and can join their peers working from home. We will be working with our schools to ensure those children who need devices can access them.
“I know schools have already been receiving many requests for laptops and some are sending children into school as under the new government rules you can attend. By providing additional laptops we will be freeing up those school places for other pupils who need to be in school.
“Across Wiltshire we have some great charity work happening with many community minded charities offering to recycle second hand laptops so they can be used in schools and I would like to thank them for this extraordinary effort.”
During the summer term Wiltshire Council distributed 1,232 devices provided by the DfE across 138 schools which were designated specifically for disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people. Currently secondary schools are accessing further allocated devices directly via the DfE and the council is reviewing opportunities to ensure a further reach so children in need have access to the tools for remote learning including tablets, laptops and wifi and data. The DfE has also announced that all primary schools will be able to order laptops and tablets by 15 January and the DfE will contact all primary schools by that date to invite them to order devices.
Wiltshire Council will also be working with schools following the government news that schools, trusts and local authorities can request mobile data increases for disadvantaged children and young people who do not have fixed broadband, if they cannot afford additional data for their devices and are experiencing disruption to their face-to-face education.
Schools are also working with families directly to ensure Free School Meals continues. For those families who are not sure if they are eligible for Free School Meals they can check here.