Plaid Flagship Free Laptops Scheme Is Axed; Pilot Projects in Schools Have Cost over Pounds 660,000

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Byline: TOM BODDEN

A PLAID Cymru flagship election pledge to provide free laptops to school pupils has been ditched by Labour education minister Leighton Andrews.

The minister revealed that pounds 662,364 was spent on pilot projects for laptops under the Labour-Plaid coalition since March 2010.

But he added: "I am not proposing to continue the One Wales Laptops project and the Government is not therefore forecasting any expenditure on free laptops in the next three financial years."

Some 943 laptops were bought and used by 1,360 children. The average cost was more than pounds 700 per computer.

The scheme was a Key element of Plaid's 2007 election manifesto, which promised a free laptop for every child.

A variety of portable computers were bought locally including laptops, netbooKs, ipads and macbooKs, plus equipment to support their use, such as chargers.

Project support included worKshops for schools, Welsh language translation/spellchecKing software and insurance.

Mr Andrews told Conservative shadow education minister Angela Burns: "The Welsh Government did not have a free laptops policy.

"We supported a pilot project to explore the educational benefits of providing access to laptops through schools for children from flying start and communities first areas.

"This project ended as scheduled on 31 March 2011 and is now being evaluated."

The Conservatives said the decision to scrap the scheme was 'overdue'.

Mrs Burns, AM for Carmarthen West & South PembroKeshire, said: "It was clear when the scheme was introduced that it did not represent value for money. …