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Concern grows over delay in providing pupils with home laptops

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Gerry Murphy

Gerry Murphy

Kevin Cooper

Gerry Murphy

Concerns are growing over the delay in providing home schooling laptops for pupils who have no access to online learning in Northern Ireland.

Nine weeks after schools closed to pupils, around 3,000 laptops have now been sourced, but Education Minister Peter Weir has indicated that as many as 24,000 new laptops would be needed to meet demand.

"It's to be welcomed the Department is taking measures to provide laptop access for pupils who are in need of the hardware," said Gerry Murphy, Northern Secretary of teaching union INTO.

"It's unfortunate that it took so long for this to happen, but we all have to accept that everyone was caught unawares by the crisis.

"Children who currently have no access will get access and though there is a lot of schoolwork they could have been doing, by September time, when we enter a phase of blended learning, they will hopefully have the equipment they need to continue their education.

"While laptops will be helpful, we have to remember that this is no substitute for learning in the classroom under the guidance of a teacher. That has to be the main aim," he said.

Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, said that now progress has been made, it is essential the equipment gets to those who need it most.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said it anticipates having around 3,000 new laptops available in the coming weeks.

"In a recent DE survey over half of schools who were using online learning reported that all pupils had the resources they required to access online learning. A quarter of schools reported also that they were lending devices to pupils. Nevertheless, the Department is aware that some young people do not have sufficient access to technology to support their learning.

"In response, the Education Minister has agreed a process to lend digital devices including laptops and tablets to those children who would benefit most."

Belfast Telegraph