DfE awards £27m deal in expansion of laptops scheme

Schools and children affected by local lockdowns will be given extra devices

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The Department for Education has awarded a £27.3m deal to provide laptops to disadvantaged children whose schooling is affected by local lockdowns over the coming months.

The eight-month contract, covering the period from August 2020 to March 2021, comes on top of a previous £85m programme in which, from May to July, 220,000 laptops – and, where needed, 4G routers – were provided to children that lacked access to technology.

“While the department’s aim is to have all pupils back at school, every school will also need to plan for the possibility of a local lockdown and how they will ensure continuity of education,” the DfE said. “In order to support schools and children during these local lockdowns, the [department] has procured laptops and tablets as part of an initiative to make remote education accessible for pupils who are unable to attend school due to a local lockdown.”

Details on how many devices have been bought were redacted. 

The worth of the device-supply contract for the 220,000 machines that have already been delivered was pegged at £60m. If the cost-per-unit is similar, this additional deal would cover something in the region of an extra 100,000 devices.

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Both the original £60m contract and this £27m follow-up were won by Computacenter. The Hertfordshire-based IT services firm was also awarded a £6.4m deal covering the provision of the 4G routers, as well as a £2.8m contract for security software to be installed on the first batch of laptops.

Delivery for those machines was prioritised for year 10 pupils or those preparing for exams. 

The second tranche of devices will be available for students across years 3 to 11 – covering ages seven to 16 – although, once again, those in later years will be prioritised, if necessary.

Children whose only available device at home is a smartphone will be eligible to receive a laptop, as will those with no devices at all, or who have one device shared between multiple household members. Those without a fixed broadband connection are also covered by the scheme, as are those who are shielding on official advice, or receiving education in hospital.

“The priority in operationalising this service will be getting the support to children who need it in the shortest timeframe,” the department said. “This means prioritising processes that are responsive and using user insights to maximise their effectiveness.”

Schools, maintained schools, and hospital schools, academy trusts, and further-education providers that work with 14-to-16-year-olds are eligible to order devices. Each school, local authority, and academy trust has been given an estimated allocation by the DfE.

This number has been arrived at following departmental calculations based on the total number of children in years 3 to 10, the number of children receiving free school meals, and how many devices have already been delivered.

Schools, councils, or trusts that wish to query their allocation or request more devices are advised to email covid.technology@education.gov.uk.

The four DfE contracts, worth a cumulative £96.5m, are among 81 public-sector deals that Computacenter has won this year, data from GOV.UK Contracts Finder reveals.

Among the other contracts won in 2020 by the £5bn-turnover firm are a £4.4m deal with the Department for Work and Pensions for Dell EMC technology, a £3.3m IT hardware contract with the Met Office, and a five-year software renewal deal with the Ministry of Defence worth £6.4m.


Sam Trendall

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