Michael Gove and the money wasted pushing tablets into Britain’s schools

The Department for Education has failed in its attempts to cover-up the money being wasted by “almost all” schools that have introduced tablet computers into classrooms.

Michael Gove’s department initially released a redacted version of notes from a meeting between technology companies and the education minister after a Freedom of Information request, but omitted mention of the botched roll outs of the tablets.

After refusing to reveal this information after an internal review, the Department for Education (DfE) has now relented and fully disclosed the notes to bring to an end an investigation into the matter by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The bosses of Carphone Warehouse and Dixons and a senior Google exec warned the education minister during a meeting in June about the need to take a “more considered approach” when introducing tablets to every child in a school.

The newly released notes reveal “almost all schools introducing 1-1 tablet PCs to date had got it wrong in some way”.

They continued: “Money was being wasted as a result and, given the current enthusiasm among schools for tablet PCs, there is a strong need to encourage a more considered approach.”

Carphone Warehouse chief executive Andrew Harrison, Dixons boss Sebastian James and Google’s director of Android EMEA partnerships Richard Turner were lobbying Gove as part of the ‘Tablets for Schools’ joint venture that is arguing the case for replacing text books with tablets.

The research that underpins the Tablets for Schools lobbying campaign is being carried out by Dr Barbie Clarke, the mother-in-law of Harrison.

The investigation by the ICO has also forced the DfE to reveal Gove was happy to plug the work being done by Tablets for Schools in speeches and articles.

Under a heading listed as “other actions” the notes state Gove’s private office would share information with the Tablets for Schools team about “dissemination opportunities” including the ASCL annual conference and the Institute of Education teaching conferences.

Gove also proposed visiting a school involved in the Tablets for School research and said he would be happy to attend the inaugural Tablets for School conference, with a “possible article [or] speech mention before this”.

In the event, Gove was unable to attend the conference because of other travel commitments.

A member of the DfE’s curriculum and standards division said it has now fully disclosed the notes from the meeting after reviewing the notes during the ICO investigation and concluding the department is “now in a position to disclose the remainder of the information”.

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