Independent training providers have said it is ‘very welcome’ to learn that the government will extend its free digital devices scheme to their students, having initially suggested they would not be included, FE Week reports.
Private providers will soon be invited to order devices, a Department for Education spokesperson confirmed, as part of ‘Get Help with Technology’. The scheme is open to students aged 16 to 19 on study programmes, including traineeships, and in receipt of free meals.
Those aged 19 or over with education, health and care plans, who also receive free meals, will also be entitled to apply for a free device.
The majority of eligible FE providers will be invited to put in their orders over the next couple of weeks, with the remaining applicants told they will be able to do the same by the end of February.
The free devices will be allocated based on the number of students entitled to free meals and estimates of the number of devices providers already own.
It represents yet another U-turn by the UK government, with Skills Minister Gillian Keegan having suggested at the start of the week that independent providers would not be able to access the scheme. Speaking on an FE Week Podcast, she said that with many FE students on part-time, rather than full-time courses, they would not be included.
However, she since clarified it will only be apprentices who are ineligible, with employers expected to ensure that their learners have access to the right technology.
The ‘Get Help with Technology’ programme includes a £400 million government investment in delivering laptops and tablets to disadvantaged young people who are learning remotely.
Commenting on the latest announcement, Association of Employment and Learning Providers managing director Jane Hickie said it was a “very welcome development after the minister’s comments on Monday”.
However, she took exception to apprentices not being able to access the scheme, suggesting that this represents “passing the buck to the employer.” Hickie argued that eligibility should be based on “meeting the needs of all disadvantaged young learners” as opposed to the type of provider who is offering the learning or the type of learning.
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