Conservatives have denounced the Assembly Government move as an expensive gimmick.
The scheme was a key pledge in the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition One Wales pact, with Labour Education Minister Leighton Andrews saying computers are now as essential as books and pens.
Laptops funded through the pilot will belong to the school or local education authority but it is expected children will have the opportunity to use these for learning at home or in community buildings such as public libraries.
The Welsh Assembly Government made a commitment through the One Wales [coalition pact] to pilot the provision of laptops for children.
Computers have become as essential a part of school life as books, pens and paper. Having access to computers provides clear educational benefits such as offering pupils more creative learning experiences and giving them the opportunity to do projects and research on the internet.
A key element of the laptop pilot is to support digital inclusion. Research has shown that if you live in more deprived areas, you are more likely to be digitally excluded.
This is why the pilot is being carried out in schools within Communities First and Flying Start areas. Schools should therefore have arrangements for ensuring that the children receiving laptops are those most likely to benefit.
The project’s proposals offer innovative ways of using laptops to encourage children to engage in learning. They should also help pupils to improve their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills. I look forward to hearing the views of teachers, pupils and parents in the participating schools as the pilot progresses.
This expensive and ill-advised scheme makes even less sense in this tough financial climate, particularly given that the gap in average spend per pupil between Wales and England has risen to £527.
This money could have been used elsewhere within the education system.
Yet again, the Welsh Assembly Government has failed to recognise the real priorities for education in Wales. Our schools need adequate funding not more gimmicks.
In today’s world, many children are familiar with using the latest technology and new media. Integrating that into the way they learn from an early age is a natural step that can have a range of advantages for them.
Making this technology available in our schools is one way of ensuring that those who may not have the opportunity to use a computer at home do not lose out as a result. At a time when money is extremely tight, we have to look at using public funds in the most cost effective way. So looking at innovations such as the use of laptops in schools is an important step forward.