Dear Parents/ Carers,
I hope you’re all safe and well.
I am emailing to keep in touch with you as I did over the previous lockdown, and to fill you in on the Government’s Laptops to Schools initiative.
Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for trying so hard to keep your children learning. Staff have worked really hard to ensure that our remote learning is high quality, and whilst nothing can substitute education in school, we are at least able to offer some excellent online resources, including live teaching for Years 2-6.
This leads me to address the problem that some of you are having with access to technology. I listened to Boris Johnson on television on Monday night, as many of you probably did. I know that he made it sound as if thousands of laptops are being delivered to schools across the country so that every child would be able to have one. I know that many of you are waiting for us to deliver these laptops to you, and are becoming frustrated that they are not appearing.
So I want to tell you exactly how the system works, so that you don’t feel that we are withholding these devices from you. Schools don’t send on order into the DfE telling them how many laptops they need. The DfE calculate how many laptops each school can have, based on the number of children having free school meals within the school. The DfE devices are for children in receipt of Free School Meals.
For St John’s, the DfE have allocated 38 laptops. We have over 110 children on Free School Meals, so as you can see, there are nowhere near enough for everybody that needs one to have one- and that’s just the children on free school meals.
I know that many of you who are not on free school meals have several children at home all trying to use one device. I completely understand how difficult that is. It makes the job of trying to home school your children even harder than it already is!
I applied to the DfE for our full allocation of laptops back in September. They arrived on the last day of last term. Our technician, Mr Elliot, now has to set them up and install monitoring software that alerts us to any misuse. This is something schools are legally obliged to do in order to safeguard children. Mr Elliot has to organise this with the support of Birmingham City Council’s Entrust ICT Service. He hopes that this will be completed on Thursday. After that, we will be working through our lists of children on Free School Meals who we know have no access to technology.
Because we have only been given 38 devices (only enough for 34% of our children on Free School Meals), we are trying hard to find other sources of laptops. Some of our families have already been lent some reconditioned laptops which we managed to apply for from BEP (The Birmingham Education Partnership), and we are continuing to ask for more.
We will work our hardest to get devices to children that need them, but as we have currently received only enough devices for less than 1% of the total children at our school, you can see that it is going to be an uphill struggle.
I’ll keep you informed as to our progress.