Since the shift in focus to online learning during the first lockdown in March 2020, six local authorities combined to spend more than £6.7 million on computers for pupils.
The money enabled the purchase of more than 27,000 devices, mostly Google Chromebooks, according to statistics obtained through freedom of information requests.
The biggest spender was Aberdeen City Council, where £2,542,202.45 went towards buying 12,027 new devices. That’s over one-third of the £6,789,946 spent across the north and north east since March 2020.
Some councils are prioritising 1:1 devices for secondary pupils, meaning pupils have computers for use at home and in school. More than 14,000 secondary pupils in Highland Council already have computers or other devices.
Over half of the 10,000 Aberdeen City secondary pupils have a 1:1 device, and other local authorities are working to expand similar programmes.
Digital learning in Highland predates Covid
Earlier this year, Highland Council announced that all pupils from P6-S6 are using a 1:1 device. According to recent statistics, that’s 14,400 secondary and 5,041 primary pupils.
The 105 primary schools with pupil rolls below 75 have a computer or other device for every pupil.
The council has 33,360 active Chromebooks in schools across the region. The council purchased 4,449 additional Chromebooks in 2020/2021. The computers and software cost £1,092,070.
Moray Council spent £1,208,873 on 2808 new computers since March 2020. A council spokesperson said that all of these devices were sent to schools and now 625 of 5,328 secondary pupils are using a 1:1 device.
Almost 20,000 new devices in Aberdeen City and Shire
In Aberdeen City, 6,235 of the council’s 10,077 secondary pupils have a 1:1 device. The council recently purchased 12,027 new computers – including 3,125 this year – at a cost of £2,542,202.
Aberdeenshire Council reported spending £1,491,164 on 6,439 new devices in the last two school years. 1,201 of those were bought during this school year.
The devices are being used to support pupils at risk of digital exclusion.
Islands using computers to keep pupils connected
In Shetland, the current ratio of computers to pupils is about 1:2, according to council estimates. The council spent £260,637 on 705 additional devices in 2020/2021. About 300 pupils are working on a 1:1 device thanks to digital inclusion funding.
Orkney Islands Council purchased 300 digital devices in 2020/2021 and has plans for another 450 this year. They estimate the total cost to be around £190,000 over the two years.
The council is currently trialling 100 of their 1,273 secondary pupils with a 1:1 device.
The Western Isles did not respond to requests for data on the number and cost of computers purchased for pupils last year. But earlier reports show that the council purchased at least 450 since March 2020.
Education leaders in the area have been using computers to combat geographical barriers in the region since before the pandemic.