Will the Government sidestep 'austerity' for schools tablets scheme?
Carphone Warehouse, a key supplier of digital tablets, has ahieved a coup in its bid to persuade the Coalition Government to help schools with 1:1 procurement of digital tablets. The Department for Education (DfE) has been sending out invites to a special seminar in Westminster, London, next week (July 25) to discuss new research carried out on behalf of Carphone Warehouse and its industry partners.
The DfE says the Tablets for Schools campaign, which it describes as a "not for profit" scheme, has identified "significant educational benefits" of school 1:1 tablet schemes and that they are "complicated" to run.
However, it does not mention that Carphone Warehouse's research, which it bills as "independent", is in fact carried out by Family Kids and Youth, the market and social research outfit run by Barbie Clarke who is the mother-in-law of Carphone Warehouse boss Andrew Harrison who met with education secretary Michael Gove MP to discuss the project in 2012.
All 11-year-olds would get access to a tablet under the scheme
The Tablets for Schools initiative, which aims to ensure that all 11-year-olds have access to a digital tablet, was created by Carphone Warehouse's corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm. It is now supported by "Dixons, Google, Samsung, Pearson, Virgin Media and TalkTalk working in partnership with schools and academics", says the DfE invite to the seminar. Education consultants from 9ine, which worked on the Longfield Academiy 1:1 project (see "iPads changing the game for learning at Longfield"), have been carrying out "how to" seminars for the campaign, including this one on using Nexus 7 tablets for learning.
Although national ICT procurement schemes were thought to be a thing of the past with the emergence of the Coalition Government and its "austerity" strategy, the Tablets for Schools campaign has powerful political connections. One of its key supporters is Sebastian James, chief executive of Dixons, another major supplier of digital tablets.
In March this year Marketing magazine published "Govt approves Carphone Warehouse Tablets for Schools drive". It reported: "A Freedom of Information request made by Marketing has revealed that Gove gave the scheme his seal of approval, and instructed his officials to help Carphone Warehouse take the project forward." The article also mentioned the closeness of Michael Gove to Rupert Murdoch and News International, whose Amplify outfit has launched a US tablet scheme for teachers and students. It stated: "Last year, Murdoch admitted to the Leveson Inquiry that he, Amplify chief executive Joel Klein and Gove had met in 2011 to discuss several matters, including education."
The DfE says one of the things that the campaign has identified has been that the process for schools to buy tablets is "complicated". The current research is considering the impact of 1:1 schemes at 21 schools and the full report will not be released until September along with a "best practice toolkit app" and a free schools guide for preparing for tablets. The invite adds: "A report outlining the research findings September 2012-March 2013 will be available to download shortly."
The department's hosting of a seminar on research findings not expected in full until September will be seen by some as significant. The campaign had hoped to have a programme ready for roll-out to schools by September 2013.