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Government facing legal challenge over speed of provision of devices to disadvantaged children for education at home

The Good Law Project has launched judicial review proceedings over what it says is the Government’s failure to ensure, “in a timely fashion”, adequate devices are provided to disadvantaged children who require them to be educated at home.

The legal challenge also calls on the Government to:

  1. set out clearly in its new Guidance that bringing children into school during the current period purely because of a lack of devices (or data) should be a last resort, and make clear that the cause (lack of device/ data) should be tackled first.
  2. ensure that educational websites, including the taxpayer-funded Oak National Academy, are exempt from data charges; and to address data charges in relation to home learning for school children more generally.
  3. conduct adequate assessments of the impact of school closures upon disadvantaged children, and to put in place resulting contingency plans and mitigating measures.

The Good Law Project has instructed Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers and Dan Rosenberg of Simpson Millar “all of whom will work at considerably below market rates”.

The organisation had previously launched legal action in April 2020 to force the Government to ensure all children could learn online. It said it pulled that litigation because the Government gave assurances it would provide laptops and wireless routers to disadvantaged children.

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The Good Law Project said that 10 months later “hundreds of thousands of children aer still without”.

It added: “The Education Secretary says he’s ordered a million laptops – of which only 560,000 have been delivered. And, even when the remainder are delivered, there will still be a significant shortfall – Ofcom estimates there are 1.7m children without devices and 880,000 of them live in a home with only a mobile internet connection.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson recently issued new Guidance saying those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study), should be considered vulnerable and therefore able to attend school.

The Good Law Project said: “It might be cheaper and more convenient for the Education Secretary, but by forcing poorer kids to go into schools he is putting families and communities in danger. Parents should not have to choose between the education of their child and their family’s health.”

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