South East Wales

School laptops headache as Torfaen council stuck with 2,500 of them

A council has kept almost 2,500 laptops intended for school pupils and teachers in storage for more than 18 months.

Torfaen council bought more than 8,500 machines under a Welsh government pilot project to help 14-16-year-old pupils.

It said the laptops were to be shared with Monmouthshire and Newport councils but that Newport pulled out of the deal leaving it with kit costing around £1m.

Newport said it was "surprised" to learn of Torfaen's purchase as it found the business case "unsustainable".

The local authority added that it had been involved in the early stages of the project but it had never committed to buying the laptops.

The computers bought last March are now out of warranty but Torfaen says they still work.

Torfaen is trying to find another user and says talks with the Welsh government are nearing conclusion.

The laptops were bought for secondary school pupils taking part in the Welsh government's iLearnWales programme.

The digital learning system operates in 11 secondary schools across Torfaen and Monmouthshire, allowing pupils aged 14-16, parents and teachers to access lessons, coursework and classroom materials online.

The first phase of the scheme, funded with £9.8m from the Welsh government, and £2.28m jointly from Torfaen and Monmouthshire councils, was planned to include Newport but they later withdrew.

Torfaen council said no replacement partner had been found for the project "despite negotiations with several councils".

'Not sustainable'

Mary Barnett, Torfaen's executive member for children and young people, said: "Discussions with the Welsh government over a solution to the surplus laptops are constructive and near conclusion."

A Newport council spokesperson said they had been in early discussions with Torfaen and Monmouthshire but was given no idea of the costs involved.

The spokesperson said: "The council was also not given any guidance relating to the number of laptops that would be allocated to Newport.

"When further information relating to the required financial commitment from Newport was revealed, the council decided that the business case was not sustainable and it withdrew from the discussions in June 2011.

"At no point did the city council make a formal commitment to the project and we were surprised when we learned that Torfaen had undertaken this procurement."

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