'We need laptops for lockdown children to learn from home’ Tower Hamlets mayor urges  

Pupils at Lansbury Lawrence primary receiving laptops to do classwork online from home

Pupils at Poplar's Lansbury Lawrence primary school receiving laptops to do classwork online from home during lockdown - Credit: Rehan Jamil

Another 10,000 laptops and other devices are needed for every child in the East End to be able to go online for schooling from home. 

A survey of  Tower Hamlets schools has uncovered a severe shortage which is preventing youngsters from poorer backgrounds getting access to online education. 

Now the education secretary is being urged by the mayor of Tower Hamlets to provide laptops and broadband in overcrowded homes where more than one child needs remote learning at the same time.  

Temporary month-to-month mobile contracts for remote learning “simply won’t work” as home broadbands would also need to be improved, the town hall argues. 

“This risks undermining our schools trying to narrow the gap,” mayor John Biggs said. “Families living in overcrowded homes with more than one child need access to online education. Around 10,000 more devices are required to make sure families from poor backgrounds have that access.” 

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The council lobbied to get 500 additional laptops in November than originally allocated, but even more are needed, the survey of headteachers has revealed. 

Cllr Danny Hassett visits Clara Grant primary with laptop for pupils

Tower Hamlets cllr Danny Hassett visits Clara Grant primary with laptop for pupils paid for by Poplar Harca Housing, Lettra Trust, East End Community Foundation and the council. - Credit: Rehan Jamil

The cabinet member for schools, Danny Hassell, said: “Having suitable IT is important for home learning. We’ve been able to distribute equipment to pupils, but need thousands more devices as soon as possible. 

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“A reliable broadband connection is also vital for home schooling, so we’re calling on the government to consider households with several children trying to learn at the same time.” 

The situation is so desperate that an appeal for donations of unused laptops or cash to repair old devices has been started in a campaign by the Restart Project charity, to distribute to youngsters who face falling further behind their school work without online learning. 

Community groups are taking part in the appeal across London, including Techinclusion UK’s Tech for Tower Hamlets  project which started last term with 60 supporters pledging £2,200 so far.   

Nearly one-in-10 children don’t have any IT equipment at home, according to Ofcom, the communications regulator. This makes online learning "inaccessible to pupils on the wrong side of the digital divide” since the third lockdown began. 

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