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Thousands of laptops bought for vulnerable schoolchildren remain in storage

The 25,000 laptops purchased are yet to be distributed.
The 25,000 laptops purchased are yet to be distributed.

None of the 25,000 laptops bought by the Scottish Government to help schoolchildren learn at home have yet been distributed.

Some £9 million was spent on the computers to support disadvantaged children and young people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Conservative MSPs accused the SNP government of failing vulnerable children who have now broken off for the summer holidays and are due to return to school full time next month.

Education Secretary John Swinney.

Education Secretary John Swinney admitted that the laptops remained in storage while many pupils had been unable to complete online assignments issued by schools due to a lack of access to IT or poor broadband.

Purchase of the devices was announced in May to support the blended model of home and in-school learning which was proposed then for the return of schools in August.

Alexander Stewart MSP.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alexander Stewart, the Conservatives’ deputy chief whip, said news of funding for the laptops came with “much fanfare” but when he questioned Mr Swinney on their allocation he was told: “Laptops have not yet been issued to any children and young people.”

He said: “This is an absolute disgrace and it means that children who are already suffering as a result of the attainment gap run the grave risk of being without access to education for nearly six months by the time our schools return.

These pupils have not been given the helping hand that they need.

Alexander Stewart, MSP

“The SNP has always said that it would protect the most vulnerable of those to ensure they wouldn’t be left even further behind but this current admission shows that it hasn’t even bothered about ensuring that the poorest pupils have access to digital learning and this reveals an acute negligence at the heart of this government.

“Simply put, these pupils have not been given the helping hand that they need – and have been promised – by the Scottish government.”

Liam Kerr MSP.

Liam Kerr, Conservative MSP for the North East, said it was “scarcely believable” that schools would soon be reopening and “promises of properly equipping our pupils have come to absolutely nothing”.

He said: “The worst-case scenario has come to pass for some of our most vulnerable children in the North East, thanks to yet another broken promise.

“Many of our children have had zero participation in school work for six months, and let’s not forget the SNP government originally wanted them to only return on one or two days a week.

The SNP needs to get a grip, get this tech out to the homes that need it, and start paying attention or risk losing an entire generation of young people.”

Liam Kerr, MSP

“It was only due to overwhelming parental pressure and political campaigning that Nicola Sturgeon announced a screeching u-turn on that.

“The SNP needs to get a grip, get this tech out to the homes that need it, and start paying attention or risk losing an entire generation of young people.”

The Scottish Government said it was in discussions with local authorities and that pupils should receive laptops as they return to school.

Laptops on return to school

A spokesman said: “We recognise that the disruption and challenges caused by the pandemic are hitting children from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly hard and we have been encouraging schools to target support where it is most needed.

“We expect that the initial 25,000 devices will be with learners who need them at the start of the new term.

“Local authorities and schools have put in place a range of approaches to tackle digital exclusion, such as repurposing school IT equipment and providing internet connectivity.

We expect that the initial 25,000 devices will be with learners who need them at the start of the new term.”

Scottish Government

“In addition, we are investing £9 million for 25,000 laptops – with internet access provided – for disadvantaged children to support learning outside school.

“This is the first phase of our £30 million commitment to support digital inclusion.

“Learning hubs for vulnerable children and key workers will stay open over the summer and meeting the learning needs of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds continues to be a priority as we plan for the safe re-opening of schools.”

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