A protest group has been formed after a school announced plans to introduce iPads to lessons.
Biggleswade Academy aims to launch a mobile learning scheme for Years 5 and 6, which would see them using their own iPads at school.
But some parents have hit out at the plans, which ask them to fork out between £230 and £357 to buy the equipment, or between £11 and £20 a month – plus insurance.
The school has stressed that the scheme is voluntary, with a limited number of iPads available to those students who do not have their own. But it admits that this might result in ‘limited functionality’. It says that financial assistance is also available.
Stephen Phillips, principal, said: “There is a strong and rapidly growing evidence base that projects such as this, giving parents and pupils the option to participate in a 1-1 tablet scheme, will help to raise our already high level of access, engagement, curriculum relevance and academic success to yet higher levels still. To that end we have actively encouraged parents who feel they are entitled to support to come and have a discussion with us, and will continue to do so.”
Apps would be provided free of charge, and the school says it would work closely with police to ensure students’ safety. It added that it would not replace pens and paper, with one parent being told the tablets would be used for one or two lessons each week.
A facebook group, ‘Say NO to Parents funding Biggleswade Academy iPads’ now has almost 200 ‘likes’.
Rob Diggins told the Chronicle: “No I’m not against technology and yes I can see the benefits of using iPads to enrich the children’s education. What is unreasonable is the fact that the school expects the parents to pay for the iPads and the children will be responsible for bringing them to and from school.
“Any parent of a nine year old will tell you it’s difficult to get them to be responsible for their lunch box and getting it home in one piece, let alone a £350 fragile electrical item.”
A similar project in Honywood community science school in Essex saw 489 of its 1,200 tablets having to be replaced after a year. Four out of 10 had to be sent for repairs.
Lynn Brisco, whose daughter is set to move up to the school said the plans would put her family under enormous financial pressure, and she was considering a different school as a result.
Sally Hazeltine added: “I think the school should consider fundraising for the purpose of buying more iPads in school and I am sure all the parents would happily get involved to help raise the funds.”
But not all parents agree. One said: “There are so many benefits to this project and I totally support the school. Our family has a tight budget but the school has made many options available and they’re not saying you have to buy one.
“I think the parents objecting aren’t looking at the bigger picture and what’s best for their children’s education and that’s really sad.”
Principal Mr Phillips added: “Biggleswade Academy has already seen a hugely positive impact from the integration of 21st Century learning technologies into our classrooms and this is one of the reasons we are about to publish the highest set of Academic results in the history of either of our predecessor schools.
“These successes are just the beginning of our improvement story however, which is clearly based on consistently placing the needs of our children over and above everything else.
“We now have significant reasons to believe that our academy will continue to develop at its current pace, into one of the country’s top performing schools academically, whilst providing one of the broadest and most progressive curricula available.”
The protest group can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org