A Government cash pot has been used to fund the £9,000-per-month cost of getting Powys school children to work online.

Powys Council has been awarded more than £3 million over the last two years to develop a programme of online teaching, and the authority has drawn on that money to help get pupils working remotely during the coronavirus lockdown.

At a meeting on Tuesday, May 19, the council's cabinet heard how part of the Edtech programme funding has been used to help it deliver a distance learning plan during the lockdown.

The council had already started developing it’s Edtech programme before the pandemic struck, as part of a reorganisation of education in the county after a critical Estyn report published last year.

To develop the programme the Welsh Government gave Powys Council £2.40 million last year, and £1.16 million this year.

Councillors were told that some money for the scheme, £36,500, has gone towards recycling and replacing 800 laptops, which have been given to children who don’t have a device to access online lessons.

More of the money has gone towards providing up to 600 4G dongles or wi-fi units, to provide internet connectivity for families who don’t have broadband. The cost of this is estimated to be £9,000 a month.

Head of digital services Diane Reynolds said: “Due to Covid-19 we were given the authority to use some of that funding to support digital learning.

“We’ve been allowed to purchase laptops and mobile wi-fi devices to get learners connected at home.

“The laptops went out very quickly, and we worked with schools and ICT technicians to get those delivered and the wi-fi units have been winging around to learners as quickly as possible.”

Ms Reynold added that the pupils and teachers have adapted to online learning very quickly and PCC needed to “build on that” for the future.

Portfolio Holder for Corporate Governance and Engagement, Cllr Graham Breeze (Independent – Welshpool Llanerchyddol), said: “The timing of Edtech could not be better as we work to transform our educational offering – and ensure that every pupil in every school is given the same opportunity.

“The programme has also helped us to ensure remote learning for all pupils during the Covid19 crisis, despite the connectivity issues that have bugged our remote areas for so long.”

The portfolio holder for education and property, Cllr Phyl Davies, (Conservative, Blaen Hafren), said: “This is key to the future of learning in Powys especially with the geography and rurality we have.”