Children without laptops or who can’t work at home can go into school, minister confirms

Over a million children are estimated to not have the necessary access to learn from home (Image: PA)

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Pupils who can't access classes online because they don't have the necessary tech, broadband access or space can go to schools as usual, the Education Secretary has confirmed.

Quizzed about the potential impact of school closures on the estimated 1.3 million children without access to the internet,  Gavin Williamson confirmed that just like in March's lockdown those who cannot access classes from home can attend school.

Schools remain open throughout the lockdown for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.

Conservative chair of the Education Committee Robert Halfon raised concerns about the “digital divide”.

He said: “I strongly welcome the Government’s laptop scheme but we know that there still will be, possibly, hundreds of thousands of people on the wrong side of the digital divide.

“Can he confirm that those students who just don’t have internet connection or computers at home will be able to go to school alongside children of critical workers?

Mr Williamson confirmed that children without access to the right IT could go to school
(Image: PRU/AFP via Getty Images)

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Referring to last year’s lockdown, Mr Williamson replied: “Children who didn’t have access to digital devices were able to access education in that school and that is the same standard and same guidance that we are issuing today as well.

“We’ll be doing everything that we can do to ensure that children are not left behind.”

Technology firms have pledged to work with the Government to ensure schoolchildren are able to adequately study remotely after coming under pressure to improve access to data and devices during England’s latest lockdown.

The Government has said that more than one million laptops and tablets will be provided to pupils by the end of the academic year to help with remote study, and previously launched a scheme to provide subsidised mobile data to those who need it.

But as schools close to most pupils under the latest lockdown restrictions announced on Monday, fresh concerns have been raised about a digital divide among pupils, with many unable to access or afford mobile devices or an adequate broadband connection, and technology firms being urged to do more to make data and devices available to those unable to afford to take part in remote learning.

Schools in all tiers stay open for vulnerable kids and those whose parents are key workers
(Image: NurPhoto/PA Images)

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Telecoms giant BT confirmed it was already working with the Department for Education (DfE) on an existing scheme which provides disadvantaged children with extra mobile data each month.

“Connectivity is absolutely essential to helping children keep up with their learning throughout the pandemic, which is why we partner with the DfE to give 20GB of free data per month to disadvantaged families,” a BT spokesperson said.

“The data is accessed through children’s schools, and will allow pupils to access whichever educational resource that their school subscribes to, to help make sure no-one is left behind while face-to-face teaching is paused.”

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