The independent London newspaper

Head criticises government following laptop allocation cut

Schools treated with ‘disdain’ as disadvantaged pupils without access to a computer at home lose out

30 October, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Headteacher Jack Sloan with Hanover pupil

A HEADTEACHER has said the government is treating schools with “disdain” after the number of laptops due to be supplied to his most disadvantaged pupils was cut by 80 per cent.

Jack Sloan, headteacher at Hanover Primary School in Angel, was dismayed when he received an email from the Department for Education late on Friday night telling him that the school’s laptop allocation was being cut from 39 to eight.

The laptops, a scheme that has been previously trumpeted by the DfE, were set to be given to most children who qualify for Free School Meals vouchers, who may not have access to a computer at home, to allow them to take part in online school work.

Mr Sloan, who has been headteacher at the Noel Road school for four years, told the Tribune: “The messaging to schools from the DfE is clear, the most vulnerable children are not the highest priority, that’s what it feels like.

“When I first got the email on Friday night I felt anger at the disdain that it feels like my sector is being treated with.”

This came in the same week that the government voted down proposals to provide meal vouchers to children over the holidays until Easter 2021.

“Speaking to teachers at other schools, they are also seeing about an 80 per cent cut in what we were promised,” Mr Sloan said.

“This is a time where we are already concerned that some children are suffering more than others, for all kinds of reasons like who gets what in terms of crowding at home, sharing devices and attention from parents.

“This is when we need to be ploughing the most resources into our most vulnerable, and the opposite seems to be happening. It’s not good enough that the government are promising and then withdrawing.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The scale and speed at which the department has delivered laptops and tablets to children who need them over the past six months is unprecedented, with deliveries now set to total over half a million by Christmas.

“As we move into half term, and in the context of significant global demand, we’re updating our allocation process to more accurately align orders with the number of students schools typically have self-isolating, ensuring as many children as possible benefit from receiving a device this term.

“We have already purchased an additional 96,000 devices and continue to work closely with our suppliers to ensure delivery despite the increased global demand.”


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