Tue Jan 05 2021
Boris under pressure to provide laptops for schoolchildren during lockdown
Amidst the UK’s third national lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to address the digital divide amongst pupils.
According to latest sources, nearly nine percent of UK children lack access to a desktop, laptop or a tablet at home to complete schoolwork during lockdown, whilst nearly a million have an inadequate wi-fi connection, relying on mobile data instead.
Several senior UK public figures have come together to send a letter to the PM, requesting that he helps the hundreds of thousands of children forced to try and keep up with their school work on the 'the wrong side of the digital divide'.
They go on to urge him to provide these children with the appropriate devices and internet connection they’ll need for remote learning during the latest lockdown.
The letter has been signed by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, three ex-education secretaries from both major parties (Lord Blunkett, Baroness Morris and Alan Johnson), numerous charities and unions as well as a large number of currently serving MP’s, again from both parties.
The entire campaign was been co-ordinated by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh.
We write to you following the news that school will be closed for millions of pupils for the opening weeks of the new term. At the time of writing, all secondary school pupils in England and more than one million primary school pupils will be reliant on remote learning to continue their education. Children on the wrong side of the digital divide have neither the data nor the devices to log in from home when their schools close. In a country with free state education, no child's education should be dependent on their internet connection.
Although the letter was sent before the latest lockdown was sent, it’s message only becomes more important with children expected to be off till at least February half-term now.
The figures cited in the letter come from Ofcom, who estimate that between 1.1 million and 1.8 million UK children lack access to a desktop, laptop or tablet whilst at home with 880,000 living in a household that can only access the internet through mobile data.
McDonagh also refers to data from the Office for National Statistics that shows of the UK households with an average annual income of between £6,000 and £10,000, only half will have access to the internet at all.
A Department for Education spokesperson replied to the letter by saying:
We have scaled up our devices scheme, alongside our tutoring offer to reach as many children and young people as possible. More than one million laptops and tablets have been purchased for disadvantaged young people through this pandemic, supporting schools and students to ensure remote education is as strong as it can be.
Tue Jan 05 2021