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DIGITAL ACCESS: Flintshire Council aims to provide computers for all secondary pupils

DIGITAL ACCESS: Flintshire Council aims to provide computers for all secondary pupils

FLINTSHIRE Council is aiming to provide computers for all secondary-age pupils in a bid to improve digital access.

Since 2019, thousands of items of equipment have been allocated to schools across Flintshire, including laptops, desktop PCs, iPads and Chromebooks, in a bid to enhance digital learning.

It follows £4m being made available to the local authority as part of the Hwb programme – a countrywide initiative by the Welsh Government to invest in the IT infrastructure of schools.

Officials have now set out their ambition to ensure every secondary school pupil in the county has their own device, as well as younger children in years 5 to 6.

They are also hoping to achieve a ratio of one device between two pupils for years 3 and 4 and one between three in the foundation phase.

Overall, it’s estimated that a further 6,225 computers will need to be bought to reach the council’s goal.

In a report to councillors, Claire Homard, the authority’s chief officer for education, said the Covid-19 pandemic had added an extra layer of urgency to the roll out following the closure of schools and move to online learning.

She said: “The programme provides consistent access to a range of infrastructure, tools and resources to transform digital classroom practices.

“Equipment is allocated through a fair formula across Wales to support schools to meet the aims of ‘Our National Mission’, the roadmap set out by Welsh Government, which includes a strong focus on digital learning.

“During the lockdown period schools and the council responded swiftly to concerns about digital disadvantage.

“Any learners without access to a device were identified and all additional resources from council stock and agreed donations were delegated towards those pupils, a total of 340 devices.”

She added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has also added to the complexity, urgency and focus for some of the work.

“Schedules were impacted by; the inability to be able to access face to face training for the new technology, supply chain issues with technology providers and ensuring safe methods of work for colleagues.”

In addition to the Hwb programme, the Welsh Government has also funded the procurement of an extra 50,000 Chromebooks for students.

Flintshire will be receiving 2,682 of the devices later this spring, with a further £750,000 being made available to invest under the latest phase of the Hwb scheme.

Mrs Homard said: “We have undertaken significant consultation with schools to complete a gap analysis which looks at the devices a school currently has, number of pupils on roll and aspirations around device ratios for pupils in Flintshire schools.

“The aspirational device ratio for schools has been set following discussions with headteachers and learning leads.

“We are awaiting the release of the latest version of the national catalogue before we can fully model these requirements but estimate that by using an average cost of £350 per device against the latest HWB funding we will be able to purchase approximately 2,101 devices.”

The report will be considered by members of the council’s education and youth scrutiny committee at a meeting being held tomorrow (Thursday, 18 March).

Words: Liam Randall, Local Democracy Reporter

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