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Weir outlines plans to provide digital devices to disadvantaged children

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Proposals to lend digital devices to school children have been outlined by Education Minister, Peter Weir.

During the current Covid-19 pandemic, schools have been closed except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Teachers have continued educating pupils through remote learning.

The Minister said: “There are thousands of pupils who are being educated through remote learning, together with excellent examples of many schools and pre-schools maintaining regular contact with parents, children and young people.

“We are lucky to have a very safe and well-resourced technology infra-structure in Northern Ireland, which all of our young people benefit from through their schools.

“However, I am aware though that some young people do not have sufficient access to technology that supports their learning, now they are out of their normal school setting.

“I have now agreed a process to lend digital devices including laptops and tablets to those children who would benefit most in terms of supporting their learning.”

The first stage of this initiative involves the prioritisation of existing school stock which will begin this week.

Continuing, the Minister said: “Once this step has been completed and devices have been distributed to pupils, schools will work with the Education Authority to identify how many new laptops are required. We anticipate having around 3,000 new laptops available in the coming weeks and, if needed, will purchase more. The combination of all of these stages together provides scope to provide up to 24,000 devices.

“I am committed to doing all I can to support those who will, in the incoming year, be studying for GCSEs, A Levels and those children going into P7. Therefore priority will be given to pupils in these circumstances and also those who are considered vulnerable and in disadvantaged groups including those entitled to a free school meal and newcomer children.”

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