Plea for laptops

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The vital demand for laptops and tablets to help home educate pupils during lockdown has prompted two Bedfordshire councils to call for pressure to be applied on government ministers.

In similar debates at separate meetings the baton was taken up on behalf the county’s young people by Luton borough and Central Bedfordshire councillors.

Liberal Democrat Crawley councillor Terry Keens wrote to the borough council’s chief executive Robin Porter asking about what else could be done to obtain more technology aids.

“We were told that there’s a shortage of at least 2,000 laptops and tablets for youngsters in our schools,” said councillor Keens, who chairs the scrutiny children’s services review group, in an email.

“I’m extremely concerned by this and don’t want our children and young people to be lacking in education when this pandemic is over.

“I assume you have contacted the government for more finance.

“I and my committee are behind you all the way and ask if there’s anything we can do to back you.

“Would an appeal to industry and the general public on social media or the council website be an idea?” he asked.

“Some may not be fit for purpose, but could be a stop gap until proper equipment is available.”

Conservative Dunstable Northfields councillor Johnson Tamara, Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey and Independent Toddington councillor Silvia Collins took up the mantle for Central Beds.

“It’s quite worrying to me,” councillor Tamara told a CBC children’s services overview and scrutiny committee meeting.

“That’s if there’s young people missing out on their learning because they can’t be in school, while their parents and the council cannot provide them with a laptop.

“We’re not sure if that need has been provided. I think that’s something we need to take seriously.

“We’re talking about young people. They’re going to be our future.”

Councillor Collins agreed, saying: “I wonder whether we as a council should do more to hold the government to account on this.

“I too am really concerned about this access to laptops. Local schools I’ve been in contact with do need more.

“There should be some measurement going on around what school need is to determine how it gets addressed.

“This comes back to councillor Tamara’s question, if we don’t know the extent of the problem how do we know how many laptops to provide?

“Could this council contact the Department for Education?” she asked. “It’s just not good enough to say it’s not our problem.

“You need to be asking that question. What do schools need to provide this to pupils throughout the country, not just Central Bedfordshire?”

Deputy council leader and Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Sue Clark replied: “I’m very happy to do some lobbying on behalf of our children in Central Beds.

“I’m not sure it’s always a laptop required. In the younger age groups, there are different types of tablets which will do the job perfectly well and aren’t anything like as expensive.

“I’ll discuss it with officers outside this meeting and see what we can do,” added councillor Clark, who’s the executive member for families, education and children.