The County Council has been working extensively with schools to identify gaps in digital provision since the switch to remote learning was announced by the Government.

Schools, pupil referral units and academy trusts have now been invited to place orders for more devices directly from the Department for Education. They can apply for devices for children in Years 3 to 11 who do not have access to a laptop or tablet in their home, or whose only device is a mobile phone. Children are also eligible for a laptop if they have to work on a device shared with more than one other family member in their home.

The ordering process was opened to secondary schools last week and primary schools were also then invited to place their orders.

In the meantime, children who cannot access a device or online learning can attend school for face-to-face teaching.

Remote learning is a mixture of online teaching and off-line tasks and will continue to follow the national curriculum and exam-based learning. It is tailored towards the age groups being taught and not just limited to teaching in real time, or working online, but also off-line working.

To ensure children are working safely online, the County Council has issued a model guidance policy for remote learning for all schools.

Amanda Newbold, Assistant Director for Education and Skills said: “We have completed a digital survey across all our schools in North Yorkshire to ascertain need. As a follow-up, we are encouraging our schools to ensure that they apply for their Department for Education entitlement of digital devices and we currently exploring ways of providing further support.

“The Government has updated its definition of vulnerable pupils to extend to children who cannot access devices or online learning.

“The wider scope of pupils able to attend school during this latest lockdown has not yet caused problems with classrooms reaching an unsafe limit – schools are still following robust risk assessments to make sure schools are safe places.

“But we would still ask people to be mindful of the fact that one of the reasons for switching to remote learning for the majority of children is to reduce transmission rates and – if they can make alternative arrangements – to do so.

“Currently overall attendance rates at schools in North Yorkshire is on average about 16 per cent, which is roughly in line with attendance towards the end of the last lockdown.”

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education and Skills said: “Since the Government announced a move to remote learning at the start of the January term, teaching staff have worked incredibly hard to make this happen. Every child in North Yorkshire should now have access to remote learning, either from home or in school. I would like to pay tribute to everyone involved for their part in making this happen.”

Parents, carers and pupils cannot apply for digital devices or internet access through this scheme themselves. They should contact their school to discuss requirements for accessing remote education.