The Scottish Government does not know which children need access to laptops promised to them during the coronavirus school shutdown.
We reported on Tuesday none of the 25,000 laptops bought by the government have been used, after it was announced as a policy to tackle disadvantaged children being more adversely affected by school closures.
The learning tools were to be given to children at risk of falling behind their classmates because of a lack of access to IT or poor broadband.
The Scottish Government previously said it had been encouraging schools and councils to “target support” where it was most needed.
But during First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s daily coronavirus press conference on Tuesday, the SNP leader said there was “no simple data set” allowing the government and local authorities to identify those pupils struggling for access to digital learning.
Schools have been closed with the majority of pupils required to study from home since March 23.
Ministers hailed the £9 million scheme to support disadvantaged children during the pandemic but the computers have remained in storage.
Most vulnerable being ‘let down’
Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, said: “It beggars belief that well over three months since schools closed not only have these laptops gone nowhere, but the SNP government doesn’t even know where they should be going.
“By the time some of this technology arrives with those who need it most, they will already be back at school.
“Thousands of vulnerable children, right across Scotland, have had virtually no access to online learning for many months now and very little prospect that will change anytime soon.
“The first minister and her deputy, John Swinney, promised families that no child would be left behind during lockdown, the reality paints a shameful picture of the SNP letting so many down.
“Excuses won’t wash anymore, the responsibility for delivering a decent education lies at the feet of the SNP government.”
No ‘simple data’
When asked if she regretted the laptops not being given to children before the return to class in August, Ms Sturgeon said: “If it was, as you have characterised it, then maybe.
“What we are doing is working with councils to identify the children most in need, the most digitally excluded — there is no simple data set that allows us to do that so we want to make sure these devices get to those who will benefit most from them.
“The aim is, they are allocated in that way before the new term starts. That process is under way and we are investing in total, I think, around £30 million in trying to close the digital gap.
“We know going forward, because of the pandemic, giving more deprived children better access to online learning and activities is really important.”