Schools becoming 'too busy' as pupils don't have access to home laptops

7 January 2021, 19:25

Children who do not have access to technology now allowed to attend school
Children who do not have access to technology now allowed to attend school. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Concerns have been raised that too many pupils are needing to attend schools during lockdown because they do not have access to a laptop at home.

It comes after a change to the criteria that determines vulnerable children, with those who do not have access to technology now allowed to attend school.

School leaders’ union NAHT said it is concerned the change has come since the last school shutdown because the Government has not provided enough laptops to children.

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This has led to fears that schools are too busy, increasing the risks of transmission of Covid-19.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, said that it was critical that school places are only taken up by parents "when absolutely necessary" in order to stem the spread of the virus.

Mr Whiteman said: “We are hearing that the demand for key worker and vulnerable places in schools is greater now than it was during the first lockdown. It is critical that key worker child school places are only used when absolutely necessary to truly reduce numbers and spread of the virus.

“We have concern that the government has not supplied enough laptops for all the children without them and so has made lack of internet access a vulnerable criteria - only adding to numbers still in school.

“It is important that all vulnerable pupils have access to a school place, but the government must provide laptops and internet access for every pupil that needs one, so that they can access home learning to take some of the strain off the demand for school places.”

Mr Whiteman said that nearly half of headteachers polled by the union said they had received less than ten per cent of laptops requested.

He added: “It is essential that this is rectified immediately, so that we can keep school attendance figures at a level which will have the desired impact on getting transmission rates under control.”

NAHT and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) are calling on the Government to provide guidance on the maximum safe number of children that there should be in school at once.

Boris Johnson warned schools may act as "vectors for transmission" causing the virus to spread between households when he announced schools and colleges would close except to children of key workers and vulnerable pupils.

Despite the stricter measures being imposed, primary schools in England are seeing a high demand for places - with NAHT reporting that some have had 70 per cent of their families requesting on-site provision.

ASCL - which is also calling for clarity on how schools should prioritise places if they are over this limit - has warned the demand for places in primary schools has created a "public health concern".

Government guidance says vulnerable children may include "pupils who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)".

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