School pupils offered free laptops and online classes as lockdown drags into second term

Pupils across England will be offered access to laptops and online classes, the government has announced, as part of a raft of measures to ensure children have access to education as the nationwide lockdown drags into a second school term.

The Oak National Academy, an online learning tool due to be launched on Monday, has been created by 40 teachers across the country to provide 180 classes for children from reception age to year 10 across a range of subjects including maths, arts and languages.

Meanwhile, the government is set to provide computers and 4G routers to disadvantaged children across the country – with the Department for Education prioritising care leavers, those who have an assigned social worker and disadvantaged year 10 pupils due to sit their GCSEs next year.

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It comes after the government announced it would extend the social distancing measures imposed on the country until mid-May at the earliest – just days before pupils across the country were due to return from their Easter half term.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Schools will remain closed until the scientific advice changes, which is why we need to support the incredible work teachers are already doing to ensure children continue to receive the education they deserve and need.

“By providing young people with these laptops and tablets and enabling schools to access high quality support, we will enable all children to continue learning now and in the years to come. We hope this support will take some of the pressure off both parents and schools by providing more materials for them to use.”

The move follows on from other nations, such as South Korea, where the state has offered resources to support distanced learning to ensure a generation does not fall behind in its studies due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In turn the UK’s major telecoms providers are expected to make access to educational resources free for the public by exempting users from data charges. 

Alongside funding for online resources, the government announced a £1.6m package of support for the NSPCC to expand its helpline for adults concerned over safeguarding issues both online and in the home.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “Unfortunately home is not always the safest place for a child to be. With schools closed and teachers and social workers’ access to vulnerable children more limited, the onus is on all of us to recognise signs of abuse and neglect.

“The NSPCC helpline is a crucial cog in the child protection system and this funding will enable us to increase awareness of our team of experts across the country and to expand their capability to provide a safe and confidential space for adults concerned about children during the coronavirus crisis.”

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