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SNP accused of failing to deliver vow to give every pupil digital device
Fewer than one in five school pupils have so far received a free tablet. BalanceFormCreative/Shutterstock.com
Education & Skills

SNP accused of failing to deliver vow to give every pupil digital device 

It has been revealed that just 17 per cent of Scottish pupils have received a tablet or laptop, despite a Scottish Government commitment to deliver one into the hands of all 705,000 school kids.

According to briefing papers released ahead of an education committee meeting at Holyrood today, local councils have distributed over 122,000 digital devices to disadvantaged children and young people since the onset of the pandemic.

This includes 72,000 devices provide to children and young people identified by their schools as being at risk of digital exclusion.

This means fewer than one in five pupils in Scotland have benefited from the scheme.

The SNP party pledged during the May 2021 campaign that by the end of the parliamentary session, all school-aged pupils in Scotland would be given access to an appropriate digital device, and where necessary an internet connection, to support their learning.

Oliver Mundell MSP, Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for education, said ministers need to “urgently up their game”.

He said: “This is typical of the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon made a huge song and dance about this pledge during the election but they have monumentally failed to deliver.

“Far from education being the number one priority, it seems things are going at a snail’s pace.

“The SNP have abandoned pupils and left thousands of kids without devices and access to remote learning and it appears they’ve not learned any lessons when it comes to this roll-out.

“The attainment gap is widening on the SNP’s watch and Ministers need to urgently up their game and ensure that these devices are delivered as promised to our pupils as quickly as possible.”

Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson accused the SNP of congratulating themselves on the pledge before delivering on it.

He said: “At this rate of progress thousands of pupils will have sat their exams and left school before there is any sign of a laptop. The SNP boasted and congratulated themselves about this pledge but, as usual, they are less good at delivering on their promises.

“The Scottish Government failed to get laptops out to tens of thousands of pupils during the lockdowns. Pupils were left without the equipment they needed to learn and it’s one of the reasons the poverty-related attainment gap is now wider than ever.

“The disruption to education has been unprecedented so the response should be too. But teachers and parents are struggling to see any difference in what’s on offer to schools.”

Michael Marra, Scottish Labour’s Education spokesperson, said: “This is pitiful progress on this key pledge. It’s been less than a year since the election and already pledges are being abandoned left right and centre.

“The longer the SNP dawdle delivering this, the longer kids have to go without. This is just not good enough. The SNP must waste no more time rolling out these devices so we can tackle digital exclusion in our schools.”

In a briefing paper to MSPs, councils’ umbrella body COSLA said: “While local authorities entered the first period of remote learning from different starting points, in terms of digital devices, programmes and approaches, all councils worked quickly to provide devices to as many children as possible who were at risk of digital exclusion. However, we note that our remote, island and rural communities continue to face challenges with broadband and connectivity issues, which can be a barrier.

“Schools and our education and children’s services workforce showed their creativity and innovation in adapting both to remote learning, when there was not the time or opportunity for digital learning, and to support children and young people without devices.

“COSLA continues to work with the Scottish Government on their commitment to provide a device for every school-aged child, we look forward to using further investment to ensure all children and young people can benefit from digital education.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have provided £25m funding to councils for over 72,000 devices and over 14,000 connectivity packages. This is over and above local approaches to digital inclusion undertaken by individual councils across the country.

“By the end of this parliamentary term, the Scottish Government will provide funding to ensure that every school-aged child in Scotland has access to an appropriate digital device and connectivity to support their learning. 

“Discussions with local government are underway to deliver this ambitious and key commitment.”

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