Wales politics

Welsh Government abandons free laptops for children

School children with laptops
Image caption Plaid Cymru proposed giving school children laptops in its 2007 assembly election campaign

The Welsh Government has confirmed it will not pursue a policy of providing schoolchildren with free laptops.

The previous Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition had run the idea under a £662,364 pilot scheme under its government programme, called One Wales.

Labour now runs the Welsh Government, and Education Minister Leighton Andrews said he was not proposing to continue the project, launched in March 2010.

Plaid proposed the idea in its campaign for the 2007 assembly election.

Mr Andrews said the Welsh Government supported a pilot project to explore the educational benefits of providing access to laptops through schools. It ended on March 31 and was being evaluated.

"I am not proposing to continue the One Wales laptops project and the government is not therefore forecasting any expenditure on free laptops in the next three financial years," he said.

"The Welsh Government has spent £662,364 on this project since its launch in March 2010.

"Figures provided by local authorities indicate that the One Wales laptops project provided 943 laptops for use by 1,360 children."

The Conservatives have been critical of the cost, which they say equates to an average of more than £700 per laptop.

'Value for money'

Shadow education minister Angela Burns said: "It was clear when the scheme was introduced that it did not represent value for money from the education budget and could have been better spent improving facilities in schools."

A Plaid spokesperson said: "The purpose of this pilot was to evaluate the potential for a wider free laptop scheme.

"That work still needs to be done thoroughly before the minister decides which direction to take for the future based on the evidence when it is presented to him.

"There is a recognised need to ensure that children in Wales have greater access to, and understanding of, information technology."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The One Wales agreement committed the assembly government to pilot the provision of laptops for children.

"We have met this commitment in full, with over 1,300 children from some of the most deprived areas of Wales taking part in the scheme.

"Evaluation will now be used to develop guidance and information for schools and authorities looking to take forward similar initiatives.

"Lessons from the project will also be used to inform the ICT [information and communication technology] element of the national standard for 21st Century schools, as set out in the Digital Wales Delivery Plan which was published in March 2011."

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