The Department for Education has agreed deals with two extra suppliers that will collectively deliver up to 165,000 additional laptops to be provided to disadvantaged pupils unable to attend school.
In early summer the DfE – working with IT services firm Computacenter – delivered devices to a total of 220,000 disadvantaged students. These machines were primarily provided to those in year 10 or preparing for exams.
The initiative, dubbed ‘Get Help with Technology’, has since been expanded, with the department investing in a further 340,000 devices to roll out to pupils aged from seven to 16 that are unable to attend school – because they are vulnerable, or need to self-isolate – and would not otherwise have access to technology.
Recently published procurement documents reveal that, as part of this expansion of the programme, the DfE has signed up two new suppliers to provide stock: XMA and SCC.
The former has been awarded two separate contracts, the first of which came into effect on 17 September and runs for one year. This deal will cover the purchase of at least 69,000 devices – at a cost of £11.7m – and could be extended to include a further 60,000, which would take the worth of the contract to £22.2m.
A second 12-month contract with XMA, covering a further 26,449 devices, commenced on 20 October. This deal is worth £5.7m to the IT reseller.
The SCC engagement, which also lasts for a year, came int effect on 23 October. The £2.1m deal covers an additional 10,000 machines.
The three contracts collectively provide for 165,449 laptops, at a cost of £30m. This equates to a cost of a little over £180 per machine.
Answering a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Thangam Debonnaire, schools minister Nick Gibb this week said: “The Get Help With Technology scheme is intended to enable schools to support disadvantaged children in Years 3 to 11 who do not have access to a laptop or tablet privately or through school. Support is provided when schools report disruption to face-to-face education. Schools can order laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children across all year groups who are shielding as a result of official or medical advice, for all year groups who attend hospital schools, and for those completing their Key Stage 4 at a further education college. Subject to availability, we expect to deliver orders within 48 hours of the ordering being received.”
He added: “The department allocated a number of devices to each school. To arrive at this allocation, the department has used data on the number of pupils eligible for free school meals in each school. The department expects that pupils’ device needs will be met to some extent by existing school laptops and tablets.”
Sam Trendall is the editor of CSW's sister title PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.