Sturgeon makes free laptops pledge – but 25,000 children still waiting on promise from May
Sturgeon questions ‘appropriateness’ of Salmond election bid
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Deputy First Minister John Swinney set out the policy at the party’s campaign conference ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections. It would see every school pupil in Scotland between P1 and S6 provided with an age-appropriate laptop, Chromebook or tablet for use in school and at home – with each coming with a free internet connection.
Addressing the SNP Election Conference, Mr Swinney said: “We put tens of thousands of new laptops and Chromebooks in the hands of children learning at home during lockdown. But I want to do more.
“COVID-19 has reinforced the need to break down the barriers to learning. A child cannot do their homework on mum or dad’s phone.
“They cannot study online if they can’t connect to the internet. These tools are no longer luxuries.
“They are the basic building blocks of a good education.
“It is time now to recognise that. And, because education is about levelling up, it must be done for everyone. Rich and poor alike.”
But it comes just months after Mr Swinney was forced to admit that 25,000 laptops bought to support disadvantaged children forced to learn at home when schools closed to fight the coronavirus crisis remain in storage.
The Express understands these laptops are still in storage.
The Scottish Government introduced the £9million scheme back in May 2020 to encourage pupils with no access to a computer to complete online assessments at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Scottish Tories accused the SNP of failing vulnerable children who have been left without a laptop.
Jamie Greene, Scottish Conservative Education spokesman, added: “The SNP left too many pupils without access to vital devices for learning at home over the last year.
“They ignored our calls for more support for online learning for months but it seems that now an election campaign is underway, they are willing to admit they didn’t do enough.
“The Scottish Conservatives have put forward an ambitious schools catch-up plan to recruit 3,000 extra teachers and introduce a national tutoring service.
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“We would put restoring schools at the heart of Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19.”
Jackie Bailie, deputy leader of Scottish Labour claimed it was just another pledge the Nationalists had no plans of implementing.
Ms Baillie, added: “This is just the latest example of the SNP hiding its atrocious record in office by trotting out policies that they have failed to execute, or that they have no plan to implement.
“The facts speak for themselves – under the SNP, the digital divide between the wealthiest and the poorest has grown.
“Time and time again, the SNP has missed its own targets for the roll-out of devices – leaving some of the poorest children without access to vital technology and experts baffled at the sluggish pace of the programme.”
The £350 million programme will also provide technical support and training for teachers so they can better help children as they learn on the new devices.
Councils will be funded to improve schools’ electronic infrastructure, such as networking within schools and internet bandwidth.
It comes as the Scottish First Minister announced her party’s intention to double the Scottish Child Payment.
It currently provides £10 a week to low-income families – initially those with children up to the age of six – and is set to expand to all children under the age of 16 by the end of next year.
But Nicola Sturgeon confirmed her intention for this to be doubled to £20 per week, benefitting more than 400,000 children in 250,000 households in a speech this morning.
A part of further expansion, she also proposed payments be brought forward with affected families to receive “bridging payments” during 2022, with the full annual £520 being paid in four quarterly instalments.
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