Council to give 50,000 schoolchildren iPads to help close 'attainment gap'

Tens of thousands of children across Scotland’s biggest city are to receive iPads in order to help them “embrace the digital age.”

The rollout of iPads to pupils in the city will be completed by 2021.

Every secondary pupil in Glasgow, along with those in their final two years of primary education, will be given their own device, while all other primary and nursery children will have shared access to one of the tablets, manufactured by the tech giant, Apple.

Glasgow City Council said the project will help close the attainment gap in the city, a claim described as “delusional” by critics of the scheme.

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The rollout of around 52,000 devices has already begun, and is expected to be completed by 2021.

The initiative is part of a seven year-long £300m deal with CGI, a Canadian IT firm, which will also provide wifi in every classroom and faster internet connections. The council said it was not possible to break down the costs of the iPad rollout as part of the wider contract.

Similar large-scale educational programmes with Apple devices have been hampered in the past by problems including hardware failures and security breaches.

However, city leaders in Glasgow said robust safeguards will be put in place, with pupils restricted in terms of what online material they can access, and all social media sites blocked on the devices.

Chris Cunningham, Glasgow City Council's education convener, said: “We want our children and young people to be equipped with the skills that will make them shine as digital citizens both now and later in their working lives.

“We are aware that 90 per cent of jobs in Scotland involve digital work and so our pupils will be well equipped for the workplace.

“I know that this project will result in raising attainment and achievement in every one of our schools and nurseries.”

However, the lecturer, writer, and journalist, James McEnaney, said that using the money allocated for the IT contract to directly benefit those families in poverty “would do a lot more” than rolling out iPads.

More than a fifth of households with children in the city is out of work - the worst rate in Scotland - according to figures published last month by the Office for National Statistics.

Mr McEnaney said it was “delusional” to think the scheme would impact on the attainment gap, adding: “Handing over £300m to a predatory tech consultancy, and pretending it will undo the link between socio-economics and education, is absurd and a dereliction of duty.”

Pupils have been urged not to store any sensitive information on their iPads. School staff are able to access the devices at any time. As well as being tracked and managed, the tablets can be remotely locked or rendered inoperable.

The iPads will be the responsibility of the children. If a device is lost, damaged or stolen then the pupil will need to contact the school immediately.

The council added that the iPads will remain its property and that devices must be returned whenever requested by school staff.

The initiative has been described as the biggest Apple education project in Europe.