Giving every pupil a laptop can boost academic performance, new research reveals

Provision of a free laptop for every pupil and staff member in primary schools can raise academic performance by up to 23 per cent above the national average, a new report launched at Google HQ unveiled this week.  

These latest findings emerge from a ground-breaking report uncovering the benefits of a Chromebook laptop for every primary pupil and staff member in nine primary schools across London and South East England that make up LEO Academy Trust. 

Led by Dr Fiona Aubrey Smith, Founder of PedTech and Director of One Life Learning, this independent research shares unprecedented insight into the impact of digital transformation on academic performance, children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), staff wellbeing and workload, classroom and resourcing efficiencies, sustainability and staff recruitment and retention.  

Shedding light on research conducted over 12 months involving 4,500 survey responses, over 600 documents, 154 observations, 65 interviews and 24 focus groups, the report shares a comprehensive analysis, data-informed narratives and future-facing recommendations for the education sector, policy makers and the ed-tech industry.   

The report launch at Google HQ was attended by key leaders in education policy and school leadership, including representatives from the Department for Education, the Education Endowment Foundation, the Chartered College of Teaching and Hachette UK. Influential leaders and changemakers across regional and local authorities, as well as multi academy trust leaders and EdTech innovators were also present, hearing best practice and vital learning points from the report. 

Key findings from the report, titled ‘Changing Learning. Changing Lives: What happens when EdTech becomes PedTech’ include:  

  • Attainment: Pupils significantly outperformed against national standards. The gap between national average and LEO Academy Trust academic outcomes continues to widen each year including from 14 per cent to 23 per cent in the last three years alone.   


  • Classroom efficiency: Replacing repetitive, manual tasks with digital alternatives improved classroom efficiencies by 23%, increasing teachers’ capacity levels.   


  • Improved Attendance: LEO Academy Trust’s schools bucked recent trends of persistent absences challenges with higher than national average pupil attendance rates.    


  • Enhanced Staff Satisfaction and Retention: Staff satisfaction levels at participating schools were consistently above national benchmarks by as much as up to 20 per cent, delivering significant savings in recruitment efforts.    


  • Environmental and Financial Savings: The reduction in worksheet printing and exercise book dependency saved approximately 400 trees per year equating to a saving of around £78 per child per year.   


  • Greater Depth Achievements: The proportion of pupils achieving ‘greater depth’ (a DfE assessment criteria) in key subjects assessments at LEO Academy Trust was more than triple the national average.  

Commenting on the report, Phillip Hedger, CEO of LEO Academy Trust said:   

“Four years ago, before COVID had even entered our vocabulary, we realised that our ambition to support every pupil to excel could not be achieved without fully embracing digital transformation. This led our Trust to take an unprecedented leap and provide a Chromebook device to every pupil and member of staff across each of the nine schools that make up LEO Academy Trust.   
“Internally, we knew our results had gone up, teachers were saving time, and the Trust was growing, but it was important to us that our personal judgement was backed up by independent evidence. We participated in this research project to gain unparalleled insight into how our Trust performs at every level, collect data to guide our future decisions and share positive solutions with the wider education sector nationally, as it grapples with serious and concurring challenges.” 


 Dr Fiona Aubrey-Smith, author of the report, Founder of PedTech and Director of One Life Learning, said: 

“The implementation of technology in the classroom is an issue of ever-growing importance. Parliamentary sources record UK schools spending around £900 million a year on EdTech, yet impact evidence has been scant.  

“This report draws upon a wealth of rigorously compiled evidence and hundreds of hours of professional reflection and discussion. It goes a long way in bridging the gap between ambitions for EdTech and how pedagogically led decision making results in impactful uses of digital technology.” 

John Vamvakitis, Managing Director at Google for Education, said: 

“This report is a profound and insightful examination of the impact that effective, well-conceived, and thorough technology implementation can have. 

“This has clearly not been possible without visionary leadership, strong governance, operational implementation but most importantly the absolute commitment to providing the very best education to every child.” 

Patrick McGrath, Head of Education at Texthelp, said:   

“This report provides an exceptional exploration of technology’s impact on teaching and learning, raising the bar for depth and rigor in such studies. The report shows the transformational realisation of a vision that’s evidenced to be inclusive, effective, and sustainable.”  

John Murphy, Co-Founder of the National Institute for Teaching, said:  

“In education we have to be fiercely ambitious for every child we serve. This report is pivotal – it is a celebration of everything that LEO Academy Trust have learnt and achieved to date for the children across their schools, and the findings will ignite a new fire in the education world”.  

“The publication marks a significant milestone in understanding the transformative role of digital technology in education and setting new standards for pedagogical research and practice.   

“The findings have already sparked significant interest across the education sector, with schools and educational support organisations eager to understand and potentially replicate its successful strategies.”