Access to remote education

Electronic devices delivery data

The Department for Education has published several ad hoc data releases about the progress in delivering and dispatching electronic devices (laptops and tablets) and 4G routers to local authorities and academy trusts. 

The most recent national progress data for devices is as of 11 January 2021 when:

  • Around 702,200 devices were delivered or dispatched in total since the start of the scheme (May 2020).
  • Of these around 139,800 devices were delivered or dispatched since 4 January 2021.
  • Data broken down by devices delivered or dispatched to each local authority and local authority maintained schools (combined) and academy trusts (listed separately) since 10 September 2020 can be found on p6-60 of the release. It is not possible to aggregate these figures to produce local authority totals because academy trusts can include schools across different local authorities.

The most recent national 4G wireless routers data is as of 18 December 2020 when around 54,600 4G wireless routers were delivered or dispatched since the start of the scheme (May 2020). 

This release also provides information about the small-scale pilot mobile network operator programme (which is currently in the process of being rolled out to all schools), as well as the BT Wifi voucher scheme which has ended.

The mobile network operator programme refers to requests for an increase in mobile data allowance raised by a Local Authority or Trust to the DfE. These requests can be made when they experience disruption to face-to-face education or for clinically extremely vulnerable children. As of 22 October, 205 requests were made.

In early 2020, Ofcom’s Technology Tracker estimated that between 1.14 million and 1.78 million children under the age of 18 lived in households without access to a laptop, desktop or tablet in the UK.

Ofcom estimated that between 227,000 and 559,000 lived in households with no access to the internet at home, while a further 473,000 to 913,000 lived in households whose only access to the internet was via mobile.

These estimates are expressed as ranges because they are based on a survey. Estimates broken down by local area or school year group are not published.

DfE expectations for content and form of remote education (England)

On 7 January 2021, the DfE published guidance for schools on the current lockdown. Remote education expectations are covered from p46 onwards.

Remote education should be equivalent in length to the core teaching pupils would receive if in school, and as a minimum, at key stages 3 and 4 (ages approx. 11 to 16) should equate to 5 hours a day.

It should include either live or recorded direct teaching time, and time for pupils to complete work independently.

Provision should also take into account pupils’ special educational needs.

In terms of actual content, schools should teach a “planned and well-sequenced curriculum”. They should also:

  • Select and use an appropriate digital platform
  • Distribute school-owned laptops to overcome digital barriers
  • Provide printed resources
  • Allow vulnerable and critical worker pupils to attend in person, where appropriate.
  • Have systems to check whether pupils are engaging
  • Identify a senior leader with responsibility for remote education

The DfE has published a range of remote education resources for schools.

Further background on remote education, school attendance, school funding, and other issues, can be found in the Library briefing paper, Coronavirus and schools: FAQs.

The quality of free School Meals (FSM)

Information on FSM support since the beginning of the pandemic can be found in section 5 of another Library briefing paper, School meals and nutritional standards (England).

Free school meals statistics

The most recent figures for the number of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is as of January 2020.

Summary information about this data and a breakdown by constituency can be found in the House of Commons Library debate pack Support for pupils’ education during school closures, published 11 January 2021.

Parliamentary Material


School Closures: Support for Pupils

13 January 2021 | Westminster Hall | 687 cc 132-155

Free School Meals

21 Oct 2020 | House of Commons | 682 cc1129-1177

Ministerial Statements and Committee Enquiries

Covid-19: Educational Settings

06 Jan 2021 | 686 cc763-853

Gavin Williamson | Department for Education

Statement on schools in national lockdown.

Inquiry into impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services

Commons Select Committee on Education

Opened March 2020

Library Material

Debate Pack, Support for pupils’ education during school closures, 11 January 2021

Research Briefing, School meals and nutritional standards (England), 15 January 2021

Research Briefing, Coronavirus and schools: FAQs, 15 January 2021


National Audit Office, Investigation into the free school meals voucher scheme , 2 December 2020

Local Government Association, LGA: More than a million young people in England could be missing full-time education, 16 November 2020

Ofsted, COVID-19 series: briefing on schools, October 2020

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