MP says children in Torfaen and Monmouthshire punished over laptop saga
10:52am Tuesday 29th January 2013 in Gwent news
AN MP claimed that pupils in Monmouthshire and Torfaen are being punished for the laptop storage "fiasco".
Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils were both excluded from a round of Welsh Government funding for faster broadband connections in schools because they had already recieved signficant sums of cash for school laptops.
Welsh Government recently agreed for the two authorities to redistribute 2,500 laptops that were stuck in storage.
Now David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth, has said he is concerned that pupils in his constituency are not being given the same opportunities as other pupils in Wales "purely becauise a purchasing deal collapsed".
"In effect, they are being punished," he said.
"These laptops will be of little use to the children if they cannot access the internet. Indeed, I would suggest investment in the infrastructure is more important than the hardware."
Mr Davies added: "I'm aware of one rural primary school in Monmouthshire where broadband speed is a very poor 1.2Mbps. A minimum speed of 10Mbps by 2014 would therefore have been warmly welcomed."
First minister Carwyn Jones told reporters earlier this month that the Welsh Government would invest £39 million to allow schools to have access to faster broadband connections.
Councils were set to get £27 million to upgrade internet connections for schools, meaning secondary schools will have a minimum speed of 100Mbps (megabits per second) while primary schools would have a minimum of 10Mbps.
But Torfaen and Monmouthshire have already benefited from a £9 million grant from the Welsh Government to upgrade schools IT, and so have been excluded from the initial grants for broadband funding.
More than 8,600 laptops were bought for the project in March 2012, but 2,500 ended up stuck in storage for more than a year amid a row between Newport and Torfaen councils.
The laptops and other IT equipment, altogether worth £1.8 million, are to be deployed in Torfaen and Monmouthshire, on the provisio that the two councils pay £400,000 between them to the Welsh Government.