BBC News host challenges Schools Minister Nick Gibb in tense grilling on student tech | UK | News (Reports)

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BBC Today presenter Mishal Husain questioned the Government’s failure to equip students across England with the necessary tech to continue following classes despite the coronavirus lockdown. Ms Husain estimated around two million pupils would have needed computers to be able to keep up with their classes but the Government had only made an approximately 200,000 kits available. Schools Minister Nick Gibb dismissed the claim, insisting students had been able to rely on physical work as well as online classes.

The BBC host said: “The access to technology has been such a problem for so many of them.

“A survey said that a quarter of pupils have no access to a computer or tablet at home. That is something…in England, that would be something like two million pupils.

“The laptops your department was giving out, I think there was about 200,000 of them in all. So the gap between the need and the reality is immense.”

Mr Gibb said the Government had engaged in the largest procurement exercise of recent times and insisted at 300,000 kits had been made available. 

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He said: “Schools did not just rely on online lessons, they also had other work sent home.

“But we did procure, one of the biggest procurements of computers in this country, over 200,000 computers were bought on the global market.”

The statement had Ms Husain intervene to point out: “You need 10 times that number, didn’t you?”

The Schools Minister hit back: “And we also acquired a further reserve of over 100,000 computers for areas of the country with local restrictions in place should that happen.

“The important thing now is for all young people to return to school so they can be taught directly by their teachers, to help them catch up and, over the course of this week, I’m confident we will see schools open and pupils returning to education.”

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“And then they will be then asked to self-isolate.”

Asked whether he would close schools if someone tested positive, he said: “Not necessarily.

“It will depend on the extend of the contacts that pupil has had, whether there are other positive cases of coronavirus.

“But they will take advice from the local health protection scheme, and may be sending in mobile testing units into a school – there is a whole raft of measures that we will take.

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