Ministers accused of showing 'contempt' for schools in row over laptops for self-isolating pupils

Camilla Turner
·3-min read
The move was met with a backlash from headteachers who said the number of laptops they had been promised was slashed overnight
The move was met with a backlash from headteachers who said the number of laptops they had been promised was slashed overnight

Ministers have been accused of showing "contempt" for schools after officials slashed the number of laptops for self-isolating pupils.

Headteachers were emailed about the plans by the Department for Education (DfE) on Friday evening, the day after a legal duty on schools to provide immediate remote education for anyone at home came into force.

The email explained that since schools are more likely to have groups of children self-isolating rather than closing entirely, the allocation of laptops will be changed to reflect this.

Bu the move was met with a backlash from headteachers who said the number of laptops they had been promised was slashed overnight.

Chris Dyson, the head of Parklands Primary School in Leeds, said his laptops were cut from 61 to 13.

He wrote to the DfE saying: “You disgust me with the contempt you show disadvantaged schools. I am embarrassed to have you leading us. You are inadequate in every single way and should feel disgusted with yourselves.”  

Meanwhile Sarah Murphy, head of St Werburgh’s Catholic Primary School in Merseyside said it was an "absolute joke" that her laptops had been cut from 32 to six.

  A legal duty on schools to provide good quality remote education for self-isolating pupils came into force on Thursday.

The Government used emergency powers to issue a directive to schools to ensure children at home have immediate access to remote education that "aligns as closely as possible" with what their peers learn in the classroom.

Nick Brook of the National Association of Headteachers, said: “It beggars belief that within 24 hours of making immediate access to remote learning a legal requirement, the government has announced that it is reducing the number of laptops schools are eligible to receive.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that ministers need to act with a "far greater sense of urgency" to ensure laptops are delivered in time.

 “It’s clear that the rapid rise in infection rates across the country is leading to many more pupils needing to access remote learning, and the demand for laptops is outstripping supply at an alarming rate," he said.

Mr Barton said it is right that distribution of laptops should be prioritised to those who need them most, but added that the decision to reduce the number of laptops for some schools is a "significant blow".

  A DfE spokesperson 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.”