NSW schools to loan thousands of laptops during COVID-19

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NSW schools to loan thousands of laptops during COVID-19

Devices will be available to students in need.

NSW public school students without access to a computer or the internet will be loaned a device and wi-fi modem to use during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state’s Department of Education on Tuesday said thousands of students in need would be loaned devices under its plan to allow them to continue learning from home.

While schools remain open in the state, the majority of students are now being kept home by their parent, as government lockdown measures continue to intensify. 

The department said it is currently exploring how to bridge the digital divide by surveying schools, with priority being given to Year 12 students.

It has asked each of the state’s 2200 public school principals to help pinpoint gaps in technology and how many devices are required. 

One school that has already supplied students with devices is Grafton High School in NSW’s Northern Rivers region.

The school, which has a BYOD policy, provided 100 Chromebooks to the 30 percent of students without a device last week in a bid to bridge the digital divide.

It has also established a ‘help desk’ to help parents and students solve any internet connection issues they encounter.

Other schools like Warilla North Public School near Wollongong are sourcing enough laptops to loan to students in need by using resource allocation model equity funding.

The department is also looking at supplying an internet connection to students without a home internet connection in much the same way that Victoria has said it will.

Education minister Sarah Mitchell said the department is in talks with telecommunications companies to access modems and dongles that students can use to access the internet.

It comes as the federal Labor Party calls for the three percent - or 55,600 - of Australian households without internet to be granted a rebate to connect to the NBN during COVID-19.

NSW is one of the better prepared states for online learning, with a number of cloud-based platforms like Google G Suite, Microsoft Teams and Adobe Connect already available to schools. 

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