Lockdown prompts praise for council's £16m ipad spend

Scottish Borders Council’s controversial £16m investment in ipads for all children in P4 and above has been described as a “godsend” after lockdown meant pupils were forced to study from home.

Sunday, 21st March 2021, 10:15 pm
Updated Sunday, 21st March 2021, 11:40 pm
Earlston High School pupils and teachers with council leader Shona Haslam and councillor Carol Hamilton, receiving their ipads in 2019.

The decision by the council’s ruling Tory/Independent administration to spend millions on the technology in 2019 as part of its Inspire Learning programme – a 10-year investment in digital learning across the Borders – came in for a heap of criticism in the community, with many Borderers branding the move a waste of money.

But speaking at this month’s meeting of Kelso Community Council, ward councillor Tommy Weatherston said: “I went to Broomlands School a couple of weeks ago, and the feedback from both the parents and the staff about the ipads was brilliant, they were really impressed with how the kids have been working them.

“There was a hiccup on the first day back from lockdown because every school in the Borders hadn’t had their equipment switched on for weeks, and they switched it on and it basically crashed, but apart from that one hiccup at the start, according to Broomlands everything has been going really well.

"The parents couldn’t have been more positive about it, so I was really impressed with the feedback.”

Gavin Horsburgh, vice chair of Kelso Community Council, said: “I remember when we were having the discussion three years ago when they first came out with the idea of buying ipads and there was a very mixed reaction. Some people were for it, some were against, and there was a huge amount of ‘what a waste of money’.

"But looking forward to now, they have been a godsend for a lot of the kids for doing their school work.”

Mr Horsburgh added that he was aware of a problem students had experienced with resources, as teachers sometimes included links to videos on YouTube, which pupils could not access.

Kelso councillor Euan Robson said he would follow that up. “I think there is an attempt to try and find a way forward on all of that with (contracted tech company) CGI,” he said.

“The worry is about safety on the internet. That is taken into account when access is made available, but I will certainly take the issue away and talk to the relevant people.”