All laptops issued for remote learning under warranty, minister says

Written by Sam Trendall on 2 March 2021 in News
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Cover lasts until at least June

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Schools minister Nick Gibb has claimed that all of the devices for home learning issued via the Department for Education’s Get Help With Technology scheme remain under warranty.

In a series of written parliamentary questions from Labour MP Sam Tarry, Gibb was quizzed on how many machines delivered via the scheme were out of warranty.

The minister claimed that 1.3 million laptops and tablets have so far been distributed to disadvantaged pupils to enable them to continue to study at home. All of these were covered by a 12-month warranty from the manufacturer in question.

“Every laptop and tablet that the department provides meets a set of minimum specifications designed to enable children to learn remotely,” he said. “All devices are still within warranty until at least June 2021.”

Gibb added, while the computers are now owned by schools themselves – and it is they who are responsible for their ongoing upkeep – faulty machines can be replaced via support programmes offered by both the DfE, and the GHWT scheme’s primary supplier, Computacenter. The department has far been asked to replace fewer than one in 500 of the total number of devices delivered.


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“The laptops and tablets are the property of the school, local authority or academy trust, and they should assume responsibility for their ongoing maintenance and support as part of this,” he said. “If a device develops a fault that is not caused by a user, a free replacement can be requested via our enhanced support service. Schools, academy trusts and LAs can raise requests for replacement devices on the Computacenter Support Portal. This service is designed to minimise the time the user is without a working device. Since June 2020, the department has completed 2,425 replacements.”

One question that Gibb declined to answer was the average cost of, respectively, Windows laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks issued via the programme. He claimed that “these are commercially sensitive”. 

In a separate series of questions, Gibb was asked by another Labour MP, Fleur Anderson, for details of the government’s engagement with Computacenter. He declined to provide names of anyone who had attended discussions about the contracts, but claimed the total value of deals awarded to the IT firm during 2020 to support the GHWT programme was £229.1m.

A further contract, worth £14.1m, was awarded in January, the GOV.UK Contracts Finder site reveals.

Computacenter, which has also provided millions of pounds worth of devices to the Test and Trace programme, was recently added to the government’s strategic supplier list. This small group of providers each has a named crown representative who manages the relationship with the firm in question on a cross-government basis.

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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