Robin Walker claims that digital tools present both challenges and opportunities
The Department for Education is working to ensure government has a “sustainable strategy” for the long-term use of online learning platforms and other digital tools, according to a government minister.
Since the start of the pandemic, the DfE’s Get Help with Technology scheme has funded the supply of close to two million laptops to disadvantaged children, as well as internet access, where needed. The department has also partnered with Google and Microsoft to support schools in adopting the two tech firms’ online learning platforms.
Robin Walker, the minister for school standards, said that the DfE is now “considering home education options for children who are unable to attend school for health reasons beyond the Covid-19 outbreak… [and] is carefully considering the role that remote approaches could play in the education system longer-term, recognising the opportunities that remote education has presented, alongside the challenges”.
The government is especially keen to ensure the work it has put in over the past two years – and the money spent on helping equip schools and students with technology – does not go to waste.
“The department recognises that technology in education has been essential for continuing to teach remotely during the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent school and college closures,” he said. “We are building on the department’s significant investment in devices, platforms, training and digital services to develop a sustainable strategy for digital technology in education.”
Answering a written parliamentary question from Labour MP for Barnsley East Stephanie Peacock, the minister said that, while many institutions are now far equipped to provide online classes, the “priority is for schools to deliver face-to-face, high-quality education to all pupils”.
“School attendance is mandatory for all pupils of compulsory school age and it is a priority to ensure that as many children as possible regularly attend school,” Walker added. “However, the department’s current guidance for remote education states that schools affected by the remote education temporary continuity direction must provide remote education for state-funded, school-aged pupils whose attendance would be contrary to public health advice or government guidance or law relating to Covid-19 during the 2021/22 academic year. This means that, from September 2021, schools should offer remote education to pupils who test positive for Covid-19 or present with Covid-19 symptoms, where they are well enough to be educated from home.”