Every child aged 11 to 17 in the Borders is set to be given an iPad now Scottish Borders Council has approved a new digital education strategy.
Following a vote by the council yesterday, February 28, the Apple tablets will be bought for every pupil in years P6 to S6, and they will be able to take them home.
The devices will also be given to P1 to P5 pupils at a ratio of one for every five of them, although these will be kept at their schools.
The project will cost £15.7m over a 10-year contract with American technology giant Apple, Canadian firm CGI and XMA.
Speaking in favour of the council’s new digital strategy, East Berwickshire councillor Carol Hamilton, the authority’s executive member for children and young people, said: “The Inspire Learning programme is our game-changing opportunity to make a difference to both our young people and our teaching staff here in the Borders, empowering them to deliver forward-thinking, innovative learning to our young people.
“This is about delivering world-class technology in a tech-orientated world so that our young people can compete with their counterparts all over the world in the job market.
“There are few businesses where technology is not part of everyday life. Just look at what we’re all sat in front of here today.
“This council is taking the initiative to offer inspiring learning and putting our young people at the forefront of future workforces.
“This is a demonstration of the investment we are prepared to put into our school pupils.
“Our headteachers are waiting to embrace this digital learning opportunity, and we would be doing our young people a disservice if we don’t roll out this programme across all schools in the region.
“The Scottish Borders’ economy is heavily focused on tourism and agriculture. In both of these key sectors, the impact and growth of technology is exponential.
“The Inspire Learning programme is not about handing iPads to children and young people, it is about equipping them with the skills and knowledge to succeed in a future that is becoming increasingly digital in all sectors of the economy, including those traditional ones in the Scottish Borders.
“Our children and young people deserve to learn in the best possible facilities with world-class technology available to them. Not only that, we want to retain and attract more inspirational teachers who will lead education delivery for the 21st century in our schools. This programme is about both investing in our children and young people and our teachers to maximise the potential learning opportunities in the Scottish Borders.
“Not only does the programme open up the opportunity for pupils to learn in new and exciting ways, it also brings with it a raft of wider benefits including extra support and professional development opportunities for teachers, expansion of wifi to provide fast and reliable internet access in every school and the rollout of flexible audio visual learning spaces through equipping classrooms with wireless and efficient technology.”
An estimated 6,500 iPads will be rolled out from this August to all high school pupils and then to 2,500 pupils in P6 and P7 next year. In future years, iPads will be shared among 5,700 P1 to P5 pupils.
Before receiving their iPads, parents and carers will be required to sign an agreement outlining the terms and conditions involved.
Youngsters at Earlston High School were given a taster session with the tablets yesterday to provide them of a preview of what to expect.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the rollout:
When will my child receive his or her iPad?
The first iPads will be distributed to teachers next month so they can get to grips with them and test out the system.
S1 to S6 pupils will be the first schoolchildren in the Borders to receive their iPads, and they will be handed out to them in August 2019.
Next year, teachers of P6 and P7 pupils will be given iPads in April, and in August of that year the rollout will be extended to P6 and P7 pupils, as well as to new S1 pupils.
Can they be used to download games and other apps?
Neither pupils nor their parents will be able to download apps or games to their iPads as they will come pre-loaded with the necessary apps.
Can they be used to access pornographic, gambling or harmful websites?
Each iPad will have a block on harmful websites, and that will continue even when connected to wifi outside school. The block will apply no matter which family member is using the iPad.
During classes, the teacher will have complete control over each iPad.
Do we need wifi?
One of the reasons Scottish Borders Council says it chose Apple iPads is because the educational software can be used offline, so homework can be completed whether a family has a home broadband connection or not. Students will be given time during school hours to download the necessary materials they need for working offline.
What about charging and accessories?
Each device will come with a charger, but in the event a pupil has been unable to charge an iPad at home, headteachers will be able to make a decision on charging the devices in school.
Each iPad will also come with a robust case to prevent damage.
What happens during school closures?
Council leader Shona Haslam said that “snow days will become a thing of the past” as pupils will now be expected to complete work on their devices even if their schools have been shut due to power outages or adverse weather.
The Tweeddale East councillor added: “The Scottish Borders has skills gaps and skills drain away from the area. The Inspire Learning programme, alongside other key projects such as the Edinburgh and south east Scotland city region deal, south of Scotland enterprise agency and Borderlands inclusive growth deal all have skills and learning threads through them that will help address those issues.
“Importantly, these other major regional projects have the potential to generate significant inward investment into the Scottish Borders, bringing new businesses and employment opportunities here.
“The Inspire Learning programme will go some way to ensuring that we are developing a young workforce that will be able to make the most of these new opportunities, and not only that, that will in itself help to attract businesses to the Borders.”