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Kids who don’t have laptops or can’t work from home can go to school, education secretary says

Children without digital devices are allowed to go to school

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Number 10/Flickr & Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Those children who don’t have a laptop or a space to work from at home are able to go into school throughout lockdown instead, Gavin Williamson says. 

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has explained that children who don’t have access to digital devices are allowed to go to school to learn from classrooms alongside the children of key workers.

Children who don’t have access to a laptop or a place to study are now described as ‘vulnerable’. It is estimated around one million more kids will be included in the new, wider category – around 9% of children in the UK.

However, MP’s have blasted this as ‘poor communication’ and said they weren’t aware of the rule.

Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Schools Minister, told The Sun: “The government’s support for pupils and guidance for parents is a mess. Ministers have had over nine months to get laptops to kids, but thousands are still unable to access online learning.

“A discretionary approach which passes responsibility onto individual schools is simply not good enough. The government must urgently get every child online with the laptops, internet access and support they need.”

Education Committee Chair Robert Halfon has welcomed the news of more children now being able to attend school. He said: “It’s really good news for hard working parents that children who have no remote access will now be able to attend school.

“This will make a huge difference and mean that these children will not be forgotten or left behind once again.”

Schools have been forced to close following the lockdown of the country announced by Boris Johnson on Monday. This news now means thousands more parents won’t have to worry about juggling home-schooling while working. 

Boris Johnson hopes that schools will reopen after February half term, however the decision won’t be made until nearer the time. 

Mr Halfon raised concerns in the House of Commons of a digital divide that some children will suffer from, with 880,000 children living in a household with only a mobile internet connection.

He explained: “I strongly welcome the Government’s laptop scheme but we know that there still will be, possibly, hundreds of thousands of people on the wrong side of the digital divide.

“Can (he) confirm that those students who just don’t have internet connection or computers at home will be able to go to school alongside children of critical workers?”

Mobile provider, Three UK said it will provide unlimited data upgrades to disadvantaged children in England until the end of the school year in July. 

Teach First, an educational charity explains that the digital divide in England hits poorer students hardest, and suggests that four out of five schools with the poorest pupils do not have enough devices to ensure all those self-isolating can keep learning. 

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, said: “Access to high-quality education has always been unequal. But whilst trying to learn from home, the gap between children from wealthier homes and their poorer peers is greatly exacerbated.”

More than 560,000 devices were delivered last year to schools and councils however some are still struggling.

The Guardian reports that St Ambrose Barlow Roman Catholic high school in Salford has only received 75 laptops for a school with more than 1,000 pupils. At least 40% of students at this school do not have their own device. 

Head teacher Ben Davis said: “Very few of our pupils have no devices at all at home, but you often have families of five with one laptop and everybody needing to get online.”

Newman Roman Catholic college in Oldham added that the school received 138 laptops from the central government scheme this week, adding to the 34 they received last year – nine months after making the original request for 237.

The Department for Education posted a photo on Instagram of a warehouse containing some of the 50,000 laptops and tablets that are set to be delivered to schools this week. 

Labour MP, Siobhain McDonagh, who coordinated a letter in which MPs, unions and charities called on Boris Johnson to take action to help ‘children on the wrong side of the digital divide’, said of the photo: “It beggars belief that the government would celebrate distributing devices almost a year after schools first closed and to just a fraction of the pupils who need them.”

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New government proposals could see cat owners fined £500

Here’s everything you need to know…

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@vnevremeni & @little_plants / Unsplash

Cat owners could be slapped with hefty fines under a subtle new rule change proposed by the government this week.

The new plans propose that all cat owners must ensure their pet is microchipped before they are twenty weeks old – there, the cat’s details will be stored and kept up-to-date in a database.

If a cat owner is found to not have microchipped their cat, however, they will have twenty-one days to get their pet microchipped or risk facing a fine of up to £500. 

@little_plant / Unsplash

Government figures show that out of the 10.8 million pet cats in the UK, as many as 2.8 million are still not microchipped. And, according to Cats Protection, eight out of ten stray cats coming into their centres are not microchipped.

The charity added that the procedure only costs between £20 and £30.

Animal Welfare Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “Cats are much-loved parts of our families and making sure that they’re microchipped is the best possible way of making sure that you are reunited with them if they are ever lost or stolen.

“These new rules will help protect millions of cats across the country and will be brought in alongside a range of other protections we are introducing under our Action Plan for Animal Welfare.”

Paul Hanaoka / Unsplash

Jacqui Cuff, Cats Protection’s Head of Advocacy and Government Relations, also stressed the importance of microchipping, adding: “Every day, we see how important microchipping is for cats and for the people who love them.

“Whether it’s reuniting a lost cat with their owner, identifying an injured cat, or helping to ensure an owner can be informed in the sad event that their cat has been hit and killed by a car.

“Microchipping is by far the most effective and quickest way of identifying lost cats and can help ease the pressure on rescue charities like Cats Protection. Without a microchip, a lost cat will most likely end up being rehomed to a new home as there is often no trace of their original owner.”

The new rules, which have been announced as part of the government’s ‘Action Plan for Animal Welfare’, won’t come into place until an official review has been completed.

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Chill Factore forced to close after section of roof damaged by Storm Barra

Major damage to the roof has forced the popular attraction to close

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@stefm84 / Twitter

The Chill Factore has been forced to close after a section of its roof was damaged from severe winds brought on by Storm Barra. 

All activities at the Beyond building, which houses an indoor ski slope, have been cancelled for the rest of the day, with car parks surrounding the Trafford attraction closing ‘with immediate effect’. 

In a statement on its website, Chill Factore said: “The Beyond building has sustained some damage due to the severe winds.

“As a result we’ve made the difficult decision to close our building and surrounding car parks with immediate effect to protect the health and safety of our guests and team.

“All activities for the remainder of the day have been cancelled and we are in the process of contacting guests with bookings for today to rearrange their activities.

“We are awaiting contractors to come and assess the damage and we will provide more information as soon as possible through our website & social media accounts.”

This comes after the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning in various areas across Greater Manchester ahead of the arrival of Storm Barra.

@adventurecat__ / Instagram

The second named storm of the season hit the region today, bringing with it plummeting temperatures plummeting and heavy rainfall.

Forecasters say travel disruption is ‘likely’, especially over higher routes, as is delays to rail and air travel. There is also the ‘slight chance some rural communities may become cut off’. 

The Met Office said: “A deep area of low pressure moving in across the UK from the Atlantic is likely to bring high winds to many parts of the UK.

“Strong winds arriving into the west through the morning, spreading inland and reaching eastern areas through the afternoon and early evening. Gusts of 45-50 mph are expected widely, with 60-70 mph in exposed coastal locations.

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People who kill children will face mandatory life sentences under new Arthur’s Law

The law has been named after six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was murdered by his stepmother last year

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@BorisJohnson / Twitter

The Prime Minister has backed a newly proposed law that will ensure child murderers will never leave prison.

Following the horrifying death of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, Boris Johnson has announced that his government will be amending the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to make ‘whole-life orders the starting point for such abhorrent crimes’. 

Johnson said in a statement: “Anyone who plans then carries out the murder of a child should never be released from prison. So we’re toughening the law to make whole-life orders the starting point for such abhorrent crimes.

“The Attorney General is also urgently considering the facts of this case and the sentence handed down, but this is a Government that will always legislate for the toughest possible sentences for such repugnant crimes.”

Arthur’s stepmother Emma Tustin was jailed last week for at least twenty-nine years for his murder, while his father Thomas Hughes was sentenced to twenty-one years for manslaughter.

However, the attorney general announced over the weekend that the sentences are to be reviewed to ‘determine whether they were too low’. 

According to The Guardian, the AGO has twenty-eight days from the date of sentence to review a case, assess whether it falls under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme and make a decision as to whether to refer a sentence to the court of appeal. 

West Midlands Police

Arthur died in Solihull, Midlands on June 16th 2020, as a result of a serious head injury inflicted by Tustin. His body was also covered in 130 bruises.

It was later discovered that the six-year-old had been starved, beaten and poisoned with salt in the weeks leading to his death.

Harrowing footage recently released by West Midlands Police show a weak and emancipated Arthur struggling to lift his duvet from the living room floor, where he had been forced to sleep. 

Social worker and member of the House of Lords Herbert Laming said the reduction in funding for social care in the last ten years meant abused and neglected children like Arthur were being missed by the authorities. 

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