Falkirk council area pupils will all get iPads

Falkirk councillors agreed to invest at least £3.6 million this year to start a programme that will eventually mean all pupils will have an iPad to help them learn at home as well as in the classroom.

By Kirsty Paterson
Thursday, 21st May 2020, 7:30 am
Updated Thursday, 21st May 2020, 8:43 am

The plans to deliver Connected Falkirk had already been piloted in the Larbert area and £9.6 million over the next five years was approved in February’s budget.

Councillors from all parties were impressed by the results of the pilot study.

But recent events – with schools being forced to shut – has shown it is vital to put the scheme in place as quickly as possible, councillors agreed at a meeting of Falkirk Council’s emergency executive.

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SNP education spokeswoman, Councillor Adanna McCue, said: “This pandemic has shown us how we need to get moving with our digital learning. The situation has highlighted that we need digital learning and we need the technology for each and every one of our learners.”

Ms McCue also said she had no doubt the technology would improve subject choice and increase parental engagement.

“It will change the way our children learn and will prepare them for tasks they face in the future.”

Director of children’s services, Robert Naylor, said his department would start the procurement process immediately so they would have at least some of the devices ready in time for August.

Councillors were told this is a long-term commitment and cash will need to be available in the future to keep the devices up to date.

As well as buying devices, the cash will also be used to improve Wi-Fi in schools.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn asked if there was a way to deliver the project more quickly in light of the fact it is looking likely that children will not return to school full-time and that ‘‘blended learning’’ between school and home will almost certainly be necessary.

Mr Naylor said if they were able to spend the money allocated for next year immediately, they would be able to buy more devices and reach more children and councillors agreed they could look at this at a future meeting.

All members of the committee were supportive of the project, which will benefit disadvantaged children as well as those with special needs, while it will open up new qualifications to all pupils.

Labour leader Robert Bissett said: “The educational needs of our children is paramount and this transformative change is something that just needs to happen or we’ll be left behind.”

The original decision was taken on the basis that spending the money would allow them to save around £7 million. In particular, older pupils sitting qualifications such as Advanced Highers could move to a distance-learning model, which would save money.

A note of caution was sounded by Conservative leader Lynn Munro.

She said: “My only anxiety is whether we’re going to make the savings necessary, there are huge constraints because of the huge cost of Covid on our budget.”

“While we all find it a very exciting project, it’s also hugely expensive.”