back to article Norfolk children get £310,000 of free laptops

The Department for Children, Schools and Families has given Norfolk County Council £310,000 to purchase laptops for more than 400 children. The money from the government's Home Access ICT scheme will be used to target groups of young people who live in deprived areas, who are persistent absentees, traveller children, those in …


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  1. David
    Paris Hilton

    Expensive laptops

    £310K for just 400 laptops? I hope that's a package including full support and extended warranties and so on, otherwise it's another example of government waste, when a perfectly suitable laptop for educational usage is available for £300, or even less in volume.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    £775 per laptop

    That is expensive -- what are they giving them ? Or is a large part of the money being siphoned off somewhere ?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hidden benefits?

    No mention of (1) the free broadband sub, (2) the integrated web-cam c/w wide-angle lens which lacks on off-button, (3) the spook-created spyware which dials the uberdatabase. What other "freebies" will be included?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    wheres the dosh going???

    310K for 400 laptops works out at about £1300.00 each. Educational suppliers can knock out dual core machines nowadays for a little under £300 each.

    400 lappies at £300 each is K120 ish. So whats the other K190 or so going on?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    "£310,000 ...for more than 400 children."

    So even with a conservative estimate of 499 children (the article isn't precise on numbers) it works out at over £600 per laptop. In a mass order of over 400? What the hell kind of spec are they ordering? Is there more to it? What is the budget for? Surely kids need the spec you can get with barely HALF of that budget (and that's the RETAIL price!).

  6. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    It's free innit

    eBay here we come!

  7. Andy ORourke

    I could do better

    If I was asked to spend £310,000 on laptops for the 400 kiddies then I am only guessing here but I could find better prices than the £775 that this equates to, in fact I reakon I could give 800 kiddies decent laptops.

    Does this mean that nearly half of the available funds are being spent on "Administration"

  8. Trevor Watt
    Thumb Down

    What about my kids?

    I work, pay taxes, council tax and live in a house, English is my first language. I consider myself a good parent and get my kids to school on time, every day.

    So I guess that rules them out of having a free laptop, the only way they will get one as I can not afford to buy one.

    I know a lot of the time it is not the fault of the kids but giving non-attendees, travelers and economic migrants free laptops? WTF?

  9. Gerry

    Hmmm, unit price being over £700

    £700? Wholesale, one presumes... What are these children getting?

    No let me guess: Vista, MS Office 2007 (and not the three licence/£40 deal from Amazon either...) together with suitably powerful hardware.

    Because they couldn't possibly give them each of them the well considered Acer Aspire One (EEE, whatever) for £170 and buy one each for three of their friends/siblings too. Or two friends and add in 3G dongles

    But that would neither waste money nor buy Microsoft

  10. Neil Greatorex
    Gates Horns

    I wonder how much of that £310,000

    Will go straight into the coffers of Microsoft?

  11. hi_robb
    Paris Hilton

    Errr just one problem

    I have no problems with this scheme however I can see a potential problem. These laptops are probably going to be given to the sort of kids who's parents will just flog it on for the price of 24 can of special brew. Saying that some of the kids might do it themselves

    As for the travelers, well they'll just sell it in the pub and upshot and move area (potentially, not all travellers should be tarnished with the same brush - errr).

    The article states that the laptops will go to the kids who play truent most. So surely a much better option is to target the parents with harsh sentences (stop their giro's, make em do community serivce like clean up litter etc) so that they start making their sporgs go to school as the kids should be.

    Letting them have access to the net is going to do very little for their education me-thinks and the fact they are not going to school means we end up with another generation of pretty much useless - dole scrounging - leeches on society.

    /picks Paris because at least her kids would go to skoool

  12. Ian

    Cheap laptops on E Bay Ahoy

    It would be interesting to use the FoI Act to see how many of these laptops are ebayed and reported lost.

  13. Sooty

    persistant absentees?

    "The council said it would be working with secondary schools to identify the children who could most benefit from improved access to ICT"

    I would guess those who will benefit the most, are those that actually go to school!! What is this insistance on forcing education onto children all about.

    while i accept that every child is entitled to an education, if they don't want one and their parents don't care, why force it? Following on from that why encourage it by giving them a free laptop as a reward?

    Why not just give some money directly to cash converters as the majority of them end up there.

  14. DR


    Over £700 per laptop? WTF are they getting Mac books?

    IMO, they need durable, well thought out small machines, (cause you can't give kids too much to carry).

    complete with freely available robust software, at a cheap price...

    Surely the perfect idea would have been the OLPC laptops,

    for £310,000 they could have bought 3,100 AND provided 3,100 laptops for really disadvantages kiddies in Africa.

    (laptops used to be available for £100, each laptop bought would also pay for a laptop to be sent to Africa). or what about the web books currently available for £125 from Maplin!!

    at £100 per laptop they needn't worry about buying a warranty as it'd be more expensive than just replacing the laptop.

    Is it just me or are we actually more likely to see that this 400 laptops for £310,000 is more likely £200,000 on laptops, then the other 110,000 going to administration costs like paying someone to inventory all the items that there are before giving them away. even then they aren't exactly cheap laptops.

    Hopefully whoever is in charge of this project will realise what has been said above and go ahead and buy 3,000 cheap laptops and really provide laptops for the people who need them.

    to be honest, 400 laptops won't really go all that far in a single school, let alone a reion with many schools in it.

  15. Efros
    Thumb Down

    Bad idea!

    Fundamental issue that schools and education departments fail to take into account is that these pieces of hardware have a lifetime, which is significantly reduced when placed into the hands of a snotty nosed 12 year old, consequently, such a cash injection needs to be made every 3 years or so to cover the reduced lifetime of the hardware. I know this is the case as my school participates in such a scheme and we are now in the fourth year with no further cash injection and a skip load of dead and dying machines. Also schools should steer well clear of specialist education suppliers who are a shower of rip-off bastards who will quite happily charge a whopping mark up based on the ignorance of their customer.

  16. EdwardP

    Why laptops?

    The government isn't here to give free shit to a select group. It's here to keep the country running and "preserve the basic security and public order — without which individuals cannot attempt to find happiness"

    It's amazingly expensive for what it is, 400 edu-laptops != £310k unless it comes with such a complete support/training agreement that El Reg is being deliberatly misleading (Unheard of). I assume there will be some oversight here, I mean, they're not just going to chuck 400 laptops to badly behaved kids and be done with it?

    This is a waste of money. We're giving expensive hardware to people who're going to use it to visit facebook and watch porn.


    What is this modern obsession with buying children laptops?

    When I was at school (not all that long ago) the only kids who were allowed laptops were the ones whose parents had panicked their way to an "ADHD" disgnosis. The rest of us used pen, paper and all manner of other arcane wizardry, the end was result was us learning to read and write while the "ADHD" kids sat in the corner amped up on legal speed, learning that as long as you've got a good enough excuse, life's gonna be a breeze.

  17. ben
    Thumb Up

    Great news

    Free laptops for the underprivileged is a great example of good sending practise. Norfolk is a low wage county with relatively few opportunities for work and anything that can help motivate the future dolites in a different direction gets my vote.

  18. EdwardP

    Pah! Weasels.

    She added: "I know the laptop project for looked after children is already proving a success and I am thrilled that we are able to roll it out in this way."

    I also think comparing Looked After Children (i.e In Care) to persistant troublemakers and absentees is misleading and wrong.

  19. John Styles


    Unlike all you shockingly cynical people :-) I am just about willing to give the benefit of the doubt that this is not quite as ludicrous as it sounds. Perhaps the Reg could try to interview some of those involved to get a fuller picture.

  20. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)


    Happy new year!

    It's not going to be £700 per laptop if you consider there are other costs involved in a scheme such as this!

    And if you're going to go on about 'pikeys' and expect me to let your comment through you're mistaken!

    Have a good one!

  21. Allan Rutland

    Not the first, won't be the last...

    I used to supply a local secondary school with laptops and it was criminally insane how they used to waste money. They used to replace the machines that all the staff had every year without question, and frequently waste even more cash on funding out the sixth formers laptops also. I remember them deciding to network out a classroom (fair enough), but did they just use the good old cat5 or 6? naww, its only a classroom, we'll fibre it out.

    The government rattles on and on about education spending and we must pay more and more. This seems to be utter bull when you see the wastage. It is the usual method of how we must spend the cash on some half-baked project or we will not get the cash next year. The entire system is wrong, and it's long overdue someone fixed the stupidity in all these things...sadly though, won't ever happen :(

    AC for obvious reasons.

  22. Richard Porter
    IT Angle

    Will they get Broadsband too?

    Just a thought... ho hum

  23. Robert E A Harvey
    Paris Hilton

    "looked after children"

    Is "looked after children" some sort of PC euphamism, or is this woman of low educational attainment?

  24. Anonymous Coward

    From the horse's mouth...

    I was involved in another council's Home Access ICT bid in December. If you promise to direct your anger where it belongs, then I'll tell you exactly why your money is being wasted like this. Promise? For Sure? Hope to Die? OK, here we go......

    1 - DCSF has hoarded a large pile of unspent £££, and if they don't get it off their balance sheet by 31.03.09 they might lose it next year, or the Tories might score points about why it wasn't spent on something useful (like repairing crumbling schools, or protecting vulnerable children).

    2 - The reliable, familiar solution is a spontaneous grant-giving exercise. Dream up some modern-sounding tripe to wrap it in (in this case, remote access via 3G & VPN) and pretend that it's being deployed in a carefully-targeted, strategic project.

    3 - Tell each council their provisional allocation, but emphasise it must be spent by 31.03.09. Make sure that they accept their grant by telling the elected councillors about it (God help any official who suggests declining "free money for Urbanville").

    4 - The busy council ICT Dept then gets the problem of rolling out 3G VPN laptops to hundreds of unskilled & irresponsible users, within approx 10 weeks. There isn't time to work out an elegant Linux netbook solution with auto-restore functions. They have to spec the standard kit they're used to managing, from their usual corporate suppliers, and lash something up with Windows Steady State.

    5 - Everyone involved knows that most of the kit will be lost, stolen, broken, pr0ned or hacked within 3 months, including the councillors and the DCSF. But it's achieved the desired outcome of avoiding embarrassment for the government, so it's a success. If the Audit Commission pokes it's nose in later, we'll just blame ICT for specifying the wrong kit, or the social workers for giving them to the wrong families.

    6 - Similar last-minute blessings are showering from every govt dept at this time of year, always have done and always will do. Money is being squandered on poorly-planned, uncoordinated nonsense, while the major infrastructure of public services continues to collapse through underfunding (London Ambulance Service, for example).

    And guess what, I like having a job right now so I'm Anon....

  25. Jay Zelos
    Thumb Up

    Not just laptops

    If this is the same scheme I worked on, Its not just laptops, there is a 24/7 support arrangement with a Becta approved supplier, plus the laptop comes with a standard software stack, office, AV, anti-spyware etc plus monitoring software (Securas) as these are designed for education not playing half life.

    There is also the not so little amount of money required for the ADSL provision (for those that don't already have it) and the remote access solution, they are forced to use a software vpn that provides filtered Internet access and access to local (school) content only.

    At the end of the day, the money is peanuts is it helps the kids to fullfill their potential and yes, some will undoubtably end up on eBay, but when prison places cost 40K a year and top rate tax payers are paying 45% back to UK PLC it sounds like a bargin.

    Incidently some of these are going to home schooled kids who can't get into a regular school and others to kids in hospital long term so they can continue their school work. The alternative would be to exclude them from schooling altogether or pay 30K for a teacher per student.

  26. mlp
    Thumb Down

    But why?

    @ Jay Zelos - why not just have ten additional teachers then? Surely that benefits more people in the long term? There is a staffing shortage, especially here in "sunny" narfuk.

    NorwichCC/NorfolkCC spent over a million quid trying to offer free wifi to some selected locations in the city center - the service is now defunct.

    They spent a ridiculous amount fighting to become/fighting becoming a unitary council.


    The ability of this government to spend money it can ill afford, on "projects" of limited tangible benefit, is staggering...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Maybe now the police can........................

    Practice their hacking skills;

  28. Anonymous Coward

    disadantaged Norfolk children get £310k of free laptops

    local chash generator readies the laptop sale now on signs....

  29. jason

    I live in Norwich....

    ......So I'll be keeping an eye on the local Cash Converters window over the next few weeks.

    Bargains galore!

  30. Shane Orahilly
    Thumb Up

    Quite true Sarah!

    "It's not going to be £700 per laptop if you consider there are other costs involved in a scheme such as this!"

    Indeed. The 3 year extended warranty will be 600 of that.

  31. Jay Zelos

    I'll bite...

    I think you misread my post, that would be 10 additional teachers for a grand sum of 10 kids, that's 300K, not very cost efficient. Its a simple question of logistics, a teacher can only be in one place and if the kids abodes are fixed... I'll have a word and see if we can publish some detail to explain the whys and wherefores, no promises though, its not my project and I'm not posting in a official capacity.

    The WiFi was a East of England project and not an NCC one as such, although I'm personally in favour of a mesh network for the entirety of Norfolk. It could lead to savings in the long term regarding public sector IP telephony etc. I hate to even think about the phone bill for such a rural area, take 431 schools for instance, or god knows how many NHS surgeries.

    As for the unitary thing, blame Norwich CC, no one else wanted it, it was a case of offer an alternative or have Norfolk cut in two, which serves no-one (IMO).


  32. SynicNZ

    10+ teachers

    Imagine the benefit if they had hired 10+ teachers for a bit of one-on-one tuition instead.

    Will the laptops last longer than the Xmas toys?

  33. Michael

    I agree with most of this but...

    Will they run Crysis???

  34. Anonymous Coward

    One laptop for your average child in poverty...

    Will fund at least two days worth of Special Brew and ciggies for their parents.

    I like the way we reward people who achieve and contribute very little.

  35. Elmer Phud

    Oh, Trevor and others ( we were missing the Twat-O-Tron)

    "I work, pay taxes, council tax and live in a house, English is my first language. I consider myself a good parent and get my kids to school on time, every day.

    So I guess that rules them out of having a free laptop, the only way they will get one as I can not afford to buy one.

    I know a lot of the time it is not the fault of the kids but giving non-attendees, travelers and economic migrants free laptops? WTF?"

    Blimey, a long one for the Twat-O-Tron. How about the short version?

    "Bastard foreigners and low-life estate kids. Why a\re we white people being sidelined as usual????!!!!"

    Sounds like you can afford one, Trevor. Are these devices purely for the middle-classes? Do they all come only in Burberry with a certified Halal sticker on them? Are the keyboards only in Serbo-Croat?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @"looked after children"

    Think you'll find this is the current council-speak term for "children in local authority care" ... i.e. being fostered etc. BTW, they also get priority for school places over the hoi poloi.

  37. Paul

    Laptops for ahem, travellers..

    Why are el reg being so sensitive about the word *Pikey* is it possiby because once thier little pikeletts get online they'll tell all thier possible fathers to "cume an beat yer".

    I do applaud the giving laptops out, finally they can bring daddies' "tarmuck yer driv" business online.

    Many a true word said in jest....

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