‘Parents are being pressured’ over Prince Henry's iPads plans

Ilkley Gazette: Prince Henry's Grammar School headteacher Janet Sheriff Prince Henry's Grammar School headteacher Janet Sheriff

A public meeting has been called early in the New Year to debate an Otley school’s ‘buy an iPad’ proposal.

The event, organised by town councillor Carl Morris (Lab, Manor) and concerned parents, takes place at Weston Lane Social Club at 7pm on Monday, January 13.

The headteacher of Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Janet Sheriff, and governors are being invited to attend the meeting to hear and respond to concerns about the 1:1 iPad initiative.

The school claims the scheme, which would see each Key Stage 3 pupil provided with their own iPad, would boost attainment levels and come with safeguards to ensure no student missed out due to financial difficulties. They also say it will only proceed if an “overwhelming” number of parents back it.

Some parents, however – backed by Otley Town Council – question both the educational merits of the proposal and its cost, which would work out at £360 over three years (per child) contribution.

Coun Morris, posting details onto one of the two Facebook sites – Prince Henry’s Parents for Democracy – set up to oppose the plan, said: “It’s crucial that there’s a good turnout at the meeting, but also that governors attend and hear the views of parents.”

Prince Henry’s has held three consultation events about the iPad scheme, but some parents claim these didn’t give a chance for them to properly air their concerns and that they have felt pressured into giving a ‘yes vote’.

Otley-based Jill Anderson, writing to this newspaper, said: “It is very misleading to say that 90 per cent of parents are in favour of the scheme when so many have made no decision. I returned my slip after very careful consideration commenting that I wasn’t in favour but felt under pressure to say yes because I didn’t want my child to be ‘the only one without an iPad when they were using them in class.

“I don’t want her to have her own iPad. We have a family iPad as well as a laptop and she has an iPod, phone and Kindle.

“I do have an education background and I also have a 12-year-old and know how difficult it is already to limit screen time. Homework has to be more creative than searching Google.

“And the true cost of keeping just one child in an iPad over their school career must be considered. I realise that for many £10 a month is nothing, but for others it is a massive commitment.

“We have food banks in Otley – people are struggling.”

An update on the school’s website says: “Although we have had a large number of responses to the iPad scheme consultation, we are still pursuing the final few replies before we make a decision.

“Currently the response has been extremely positive with only seven per cent of parents/carers choosing to opt out.

“Although we had hoped to make a decision... before the Christmas break, it will now be early January when we communicate our decision to you.”

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