One Birmingham school left with up to 400 laptops short despite government promises to support remote learning.
A survey by Birmingham City Council of the City's schools has revealed huge gaps in laptop provision remain with teaching staff, students and families struggling to adapt to remote learning in the latest national lockdown.
Following a survey conducted this week by Birmingham City Council, over 150 primary and secondary schools across the City have detailed the chaotic rollout of the Government's promised laptop provision to enable remote learning from home. All but one school of the survey's 156 respondents reported their students still required more devices, with some secondary schools reporting they are up to 400 laptops short.
Schools encountering such difficulties detailed their frustration with the handling of the rollout by the Department for Education. Many Headteachers explained having to send numerous emails to the Department to access support. One Headteacher commented, "I only have the devices I have because I had to argue the toss over numerous emails until eventually they [the Department for Education] conceded".
As the country begins a third national lockdown due to coronavirus, school leaders are anxious to highlight ongoing difficulties in accessing equipment to support remote learning. Schools have used their own funds to purchase more equipment but substantial gaps in provision remain. Many schools highlighted instances of several siblings sharing one family device between them and 112 schools said connectivity remained a problem for those children living in homes without Wi-Fi or broadband.
Many infant and primary school leaders are also dismayed that Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 classes are not eligible for laptops under the Government's plans, yet such schools are still required to provide three hours of remote learning each day.
Liam Byrne, Labour’s candidate for West Midlands Mayor and MP for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, said:
"This shocking survey reveals that lockdown now means lessons lost for thousands of our children.
"After last year's exams fiasco and soaring youth unemployment it is simply unacceptable that the next generation is being denied the tools they need to learn and get on in life.
"The education secretary, Gavin Williamson must now act to surge laptops to students, with emergency funds for headteachers. And I'm today calling on companies across the city to pull together and collect laptops for schools, so the young people of Britain’s youngest city are not left behind."
Birmingham City Council leader, Cllr Ian Ward, said:
"The last year has already been tough for families in Birmingham and inevitably the pandemic has impacted on the education of children and young people right across the city. Remote learning is hard, and it's being made all the harder by a shocking lack of IT equipment and connectivity.
"The feedback from our schools is heart-breaking. There are children trying to do lessons on mobile phones, siblings sharing devices and families struggling for connectivity. Schools and children in Birmingham deserve better and we need the Government to urgently address this crisis."
Notes for Editors:
A round-robin email was sent by BCC Education Team to 433 headteachers across Birmingham. They had 160 responses. 37% is a markedly higher response rate than usually expected.
The schools asked ranged from primary schools up to senior schools, including those with sixth forms. All types of schools were asked – including academies.
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