THE surplus 2,400 laptops, which have been in storage for over a year, and network equipment totalling almost £1.8 million, will now be distributed to Torfaen and Monmouthshire schools.

The Welsh Government’s department for education and skills has given Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils formal notification that the laptops purchased for the iLearnWales digital learning project can be rolled out for use in Torfaen and Monmouthshire schools.

Following negotiation, the Welsh Government has approved the extension of the programme to include learners at Key Stages 2 and 3 and has stipulated that all equipment has to be distributed as soon as possible and no later than March 31.

Torfaen council said the surplus laptops were purchased for Newport pupils, but Newport council later withdrew from the project.

Torfaen’s executive member for children and young people, Councillor Mary Barnett, said: "The news that the Welsh Government has taken this ‘in principle’ decision is fantastic for pupils in Torfaen and Monmouthshire.

"This is a pragmatic solution for all concerned and a real bonus for our schools and pupils."

The iLearnWales programme is now operating in every secondary school in Torfaen and Monmouthshire, allowing pupils and teachers to access coursework and classroom materials online.

Cllr Barnett added: "This equipment was purchased to improve the education of young people so we are very grateful that the Welsh Government has approved that nearly £2 million of extra equipment will be put to good use in our schools."

Torfaen council purchased 8,642 laptops in March 2011 and 6,218 of those have already been deployed to schools in Torfaen and Monmouthshire for pupils aged 14 to 16 and their teachers, as part of a Welsh Government-backed scheme worth more than £11 million.

The remaining 2,424 HP laptops have been sitting in storage and their warranty has now expired but the council say they are still fit for purpose.