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The DfE sets out new plans for the provision of laptops and tablets for certain pupils from autumn 2020

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​The Department for Education (DfE) has announced it will provide laptops and tablets to certain pupils to enable remote education in the event of a disruption to face-to-face education because of the coronavirus. This is in addition to the previous provision of 200,000 devices and 4G wireless routers between May and July 2020.

School settings will be able to order the devices in the following circumstances:

  • Face-to-face education at a school is disrupted following official advice
  • A school is supporting a clinically extremely vulnerable child who is shielding or self-isolating
  • A school is supporting children who live in an area subject to local restrictions, which means they're unable to attend educational provision in person.

Which pupils will be eligible for laptops and tablets?

Schools will receive an allocation of devices for pupils in years three to 11 (not year 12 or year 13) who do not have access to a digital device through other means.

Examples of this include the following:

  • Children with no digital devices in their household
  • Children whose only available device is a smartphone
  • Children with a single device in their household that they share with more than one other family member.

NAHT recommends its members prepare, in advance, a list of pupils in their school(s) that may require a laptop or tablet if it becomes necessary to undertake remote education according to the criteria set out in the DfE's guidance.

How can digital devices be requested?

Before the start of the autumn term 2020:

  • Local authorities and academy trusts will be contacted to request details of people within each school responsible for placing orders if required. Academy trusts can manage the ordering process for all their schools
  • All nominated contacts will receive detailed instructions for how to place an order in the event of a local coronavirus outbreak that affects their school(s) or pupils.

If schools need to request devices for their pupils because of a disruption to face-to-face learning, they must place an order with the DfE. The DfE will then do the following:

  • Assess the allocation of devices at the time of ordering (this is based on availability and the extent of coronavirus outbreaks)
  • Deliver the devices within two working days of a school receiving an order confirmation, subject to stock availability.

All devices received are then the property of the schools or academy trusts; you don't need to return them to the DfE at a later date. Schools are then responsible for either delivering to or arranging collection by pupils and their families.

You can find further guidance on the DfE's plans here. The DfE has also created a technical guidance hub for technical contacts at local authorities, academy trusts and schools. It includes guides to share with the children, families and young people that receive these devices.

Connectivity support for disadvantaged children is also available through free BT wifi hotspots and increased mobile data allowances.

First published 12 August 2020