PUPILS in the Borders have been ‘wandering around schools’ trying to find an iPad Wi-Fi connection, it has emerged.

A decision in 2019 to provide every pupil in the region aged 11 to 17 with iPads was hailed as a pioneering educational breakdown.

At a meeting of the council’s education sub-committee on Thursday (November 10), Selkirkshire councillor Leagh Douglas, executive member for education & lifelong learning, said the roll out of iPads had put youngsters on a ‘level playing field’ in respect of access to technology and learning.

She said: “For many from a deprived background it’s this one shiny toy that they’ve got.”

But committee members also raised problems with connectivity and charging, and a plea was made for a solution to the technological issues being faced.

Committee member and Borders primary school teacher Natasha York said: “iPads are brilliant when they work, they’re a great teaching tool in many respects, but we do have a lot of technological issues. There is also the issue of those children who have problems with self-regulation who see the iPad as simply a route to playing games and it can become a huge distraction and a huge problem in the view of classroom discipline and in trying to engage those children in other ways. They see it as an escape from the classroom.

“Also in secondary schools many children come to school without their iPads or without it charged and when teachers are trying to deliver lessons around the iPad it is very difficult if the children don’t have their iPads or they’re not charged. It has huge potential and it can be brilliant but it can also be hugely problematic.”

Kelso councillor Euan Robson, of the Liberal Democrats, concurred, adding: “I have picked up from the schools in my area that it can be difficult to connect, there’s talk of young people wandering around the school trying to find a connection. I think we really have to address this issue.

“We talk about a level playing field, and I agree, but the problem is that if the technology isn’t working, it’s not a level playing field. We have to be sure that our colleagues who are delivering these services are getting the best technical results. It’s no good a teacher turning up at a high school with a lesson all prepared, turn on the equipment and there is a blank screen.”