AROUND 1,400 students who do not have access to online learning resources have been provided with laptops and internet access, Torfaen council have revealed.

Since schools were closed in March, the majority of students have been learning from home.

However. concerns have been raised, including by Torfaen MS and chairwoman of the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, Lynne Neagle, that some pupils could be disadvantaged by not having access to these resources.

Working with schools, the Welsh Government and the Shared Resource Service, Torfaen council have repurposed 1,400 laptops left unused in schools and council offices to be made available for parents to collect from their child’s school.

"Torfaen is not the most affluent area and not every child has access to a laptop or PC, and even those who do, not everyone has access to the internet," said Executive Member for Education Cllr Richard Clark.

"Working with the Welsh Government, they have provided funding for MiFi devices to give pupils a WiFi connection at home if they have no access to the internet.

"We have repurposed devices from schools which would have been sitting unused until June 29. It would have been illogical to leave them there.

"The Shared Resource Service in Blaenavon have put the appropriate software so the learners can access the resources.

"It gives [the pupils] as much activity as they can get without being in school. Of course, nothing can replace being in front of a teacher, but it gives everyone an opportunity to learn so no-one is disadvantaged.

"We hope parents, carers and children meet us halfway and continue to do independent research to go alongside their learning.

"I know that children will not spend every minute on the computers, but if they are using sites like BBC Bitesize that can only benefit them going forward."

The MiFi devices were funded by the Welsh Government, while the upgrading of the laptops was partly funded by the council and Welsh Government.

Looking ahead to schools re-opening on June 29, Cllr Clark said schools across the borough were well prepared to welcome back students.

"Mark Drakeford made it quite clear schools would not re-open until we were given three weeks’ notice," he said. "Before the announcement, the Chief Educational Officer wrote to schools asking what steps they needed to take to re-open, and conversations between the education services and schools took place.

"That prepared us well in advance, so we were in a better state of readiness than if we had waited for the announcement last week.

"We are now awaiting the advice from the Welsh Government on issues like transport and cleaning regimes, and we are working on what we think is best to implement here.

"A massive thank you to headteachers, school staff, and council staff working to get schools open. Everyone has pulled together to provide a safe environment in the school hubs and in schools for when the students go back."

Cllr Clark stressed the re-opening of schools was not compulsory, and parents or guardians would face no repercussions for not sending their child back to school.

"I understand their concerns completely," he added.