More than three quarters of laptops ordered by Dundee City Council last year to help disadvantaged pupils with home learning are yet be delivered.
Figures obtained from education bosses show that as of this week, just 150 laptops out of a bulk order of 1,250 had been handed out to pupils across the city.
This was a second bulk order of devices made by the council and was placed last autumn.
Delays by the companies providing the devices were said to be to blame, with a “significant amount of equipment” due to be delivered to pupils next week.
The new school term begins on Monday, with the majority of pupils across Scotland expected to be learning at home until at least February.
A previous order for 640 laptops was delivered to pupils by October 19 last year – meaning since the beginning of the pandemic around 790 devices have been handed out in Dundee.
However this is still lower than the number delivered in other areas of Tayside and in Fife.
Around 1,900 devices have been distributed to identified children and young people in Angus, whilst in Perth and Kinross over 900 devices will be ready for use when remote learning begins next week.
In Fife, over 4,000 devices have already been handed out and a further 1,000 are expected to be distributed in the next two weeks.
However, issues with supply have also been reported in the Kingdom and the Courier understands that more than 800 devices from an order made last summer are yet to be delivered.
These devices are not expected to arrive before February due to “significant global supply issues.”
Head of Education and Children’s Services at Fife Council, Angela Logue said: “Any children or young people identified by the schools as being unable to engage in online learning due to having no access to a device will be supported in school.
“Where possible, we are also reconfiguring school devices so they can be used by children and young people at home.
“It is important to highlight that not all remote learning will or should be online for our children and young people.
“School leaders, teachers and support staff will be encouraging and supporting learners to get involved in a range of appropriate learning experiences to help develop independent learning skills across the curriculum.
“Parents and carers will be contacted directly by their schools on arrangements for their continued learning throughout January.”
Devices will be delivered “very soon”
Dundee City Council acknowledged the impact of the pandemic on education and moved to reassure families that more devices, such as ProBooks, would be handed out as soon as they are received.
A DCC spokesman said: “We are aware of the impact that lockdown can have on disadvantaged children and young people and are working to help support them in many ways.
“In addition to digital resources already held and distributed by schools the council has invested over £800,000 of extra Scottish Government funding for 2,000 G5 ProBooks and connection packages.
The impact on children in the poorest households cannot be overstated. Without the right help poverty is locking children out of their right to an education.”
Michael Marra, Dundee City councillor
“The vast majority of these devices will be issued to pupils that have been identified by schools very soon following delivery from suppliers.
“Dundee schools have been working hard to ensure that pupils have access to devices to continue learning outside the classroom.
“For example, pupil support workers carried out doorstep deliveries during the first lockdown. Our school staff are working hard to provide remote learning from next Monday.”
Digital preparedness is “woefully inadequate”
Labour councillor Michael Marra, who represents the Lochee ward in Dundee, took aim at the Scottish Government’s handling of home learning provisions.
He said: “The work undertaken by the Scottish Government in digital preparedness is woefully inadequate.
“A ‘no child left behind’ approach should have been put in place since the outset of the pandemic. It is simply unacceptable that so many months after the first lockdown we have thousands of households without devices.
“When the grossly inadequate blended learning plans were rejected by the entire country as unworkable last summer there was an opportunity to start again and to ensure we were ready for next time.
“Instead it seems that council officers across the country have had to spend their time implementing last minute policy U-turns from John Swinney on issue after issue.”
Mr Marra, who is standing in this year’s Holyrood elections as a candidate for the North East Scotland region, also called for more to be done to ensure the pandemic does not have a detrimental impact on young people’s education.
He said: “The impact on children in the poorest households cannot be overstated. Without the right help poverty is locking children out of their right to an education.
“Lockdown without schooling is an education disaster. Everything must be done to reduce the impact now and a full catch-up and recovery must be ready for once restrictions are lifted.”
Responding to Mr Marra’s comments, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are focussed on ensuring pupils continue to benefit from a high quality education even during lockdown and have invested £25 million to address digital exclusion
“More than 50,000 devices such as laptops have been distributed to children and young people to help with remote learning
“Local authorities order and distribute devices using the funding allocated to them, to meet local needs. Councils are continuing distribution and the programme in total is expected to deliver around 70,000 devices for disadvantaged children and young people across Scotland.
“Our national e-learning offer is strengthening remote and e-learning options in schools. All authorities and schools in Scotland are able to access to live, recorded and supported learning resources.
“We continue to work closely with councils, Education Scotland and wider partners to explore how we can further strengthen the overall national offer of support for remote learning.”