Home education: For many families, the digital divide is growing fast

1640370843 Home education For many families the digital divide is growing

More laptops and tablets are being sent to children struggling with remote education - but teachers say children have already lost valuable learning.

Thousands of schoolchildren are missing out on valuable education because they cannot participate in online learning.

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The UK government has acquired an additional 300,000 laptops which it plans to send to disadvantaged schoolchildren who need to learn from home during the country's third national COVID-19 lockout.

Figures released by the UK Department for Education (DfE) on January 12 say that 702,226 Windows laptops, tablets, Chromebooks and iPads have been sent to schools and local authorities since the introduction of the Get Help with Technology program. May 2020.

Million laptops, one big problem to solve


They said a further 139,805 devices had been sent to schools and colleges since January 4, with the DfE promising to send a total of 750,000 devices to those in need by the end of this week.

The extra 300,000 devices come at a cost of £ 100 million, meaning the government has spent £ 400 million on tablets, laptops and connected equipment since the Get Technology Help scheme began.

weight gain faces

from teachers and parents as some children are now living off lessons in the second week of the UK school term.

Under the current proposal, other connection devices and equipment - such as routers - are to be distributed to schools and local authorities over the academic year 2020-2021, which ends on 22 July 2021. This has raised concerns that some schools may not receive any equipment until well into the school year.

Speaking to TechRepublic last week, Nick Davies, program director for the Institute for Government's UK thinktank, said children stood a longer chance of falling permanently behind the longer they went without support.

“The more children who do not have access to remote lessons, and the longer it progresses, the more money is needed to support those children to catch up, and in fact, it's more likely that some children will not fully accept it, "he said.

"How will that affect their long-term career opportunities, happiness, educational opportunities? What long-term impact is that going to have on the UK economy, and on the financial coffers?"

Sent vs received

There is no clear indication of how many devices schoolchildren have received so far: the figure 702,226 provided by DfE relates to laptops and tablets that have been delivered or discarded.

Thus, the figures make no distinction between devices that have been discarded and those that have actually received children. Documents from DfE state that figures provided by the Department do not "represent devices that reach children", adding that DfE does not "hold centrally recorded information on the transmission to families and children. "

He said: "From the point of view of delivery to the school or college, it is up to that school or college to distribute the devices to disadvantaged children."

The UK government is targeting 1.3 million schoolchildren under the Get Assist of Technology program, with a DfE spokesperson telling TechRepublic that they had determined the number of devices needed based on data on the number of children in the country that receives free school meals.

As schools wait for vital equipment for distance learning, the digital divide in UK homes continues to widen under the pandemic.

According to research published this week by the UK social mobility charity Sutton Trust, only one in 10 teachers report that their students have adequate access to a learning tool remote, with 17% saying that more than one in five of their pupils do not have such an opportunity. Similarly, only 10% of teachers reported that all their pupils had access to the internet for learning.

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The figures also show that tech inequality has worsened since the first coronavirus lock was introduced in March 2020. In private schools, more than half (54%) of teachers reported that all their students now have appliances, compared to 42% in the last locks. In state schools, this figure rose only slightly, from 4% in March 2020 to 5% in January 2021.

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Similarly, 51% of teachers in private schools report that all their students have access to the Internet, compared to just 5% in state schools. In the poorest schools in the country, 21% of teachers say that more than 1 in 5 students lack internet access - compared to just 3% in the richest state schools and just 1% in private schools .

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said that despite government efforts to improve digital equality among schools, "the picture has almost changed" since March.

"Those who do not have access to a laptop and a good internet connection have already lost valuable learning, which could damage their chances in their lives for years to come. It would simply be sad play if we let this happen again, "he said.

"Despite the heroic efforts of teachers, many scholars are still being left behind by digital poverty. The government has taken positive steps, but they must go further and faster to ensure that the resources for all children to learn while schools remain closed. "

Boys more likely to struggle

Unique research by the University of Sussex has highlighted the struggles faced by parents with children trying to learn from home.

Boys from particularly poor families were found to be more likely to be challenged. Among primary school pupils, boys were 7% more likely than girls to do an hour or less each day of home study (30% vs. 23%), and secondary-aged boys were 4% more more likely to do just an hour or less per day (17% vs. 13%).

Researchers also identified what they identified as a "chasm" between the support available to children in private education, and those who attended state - run schools. Independent schools were more than twice as likely as state schools to offer online pupil-teacher interaction, and almost five times more likely to provide opportunities for online interaction with children other.

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Lewis Doyle, a doctoral researcher in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex and co-author of the report, said: “Our previous research suggests that school closures could have a detrimental effect. take children at greater economic disadvantage. than their more affluent peers, thus driving a longer distance between the two groups in terms of educational attainment and future life outcomes.

"School closures, while necessary in this public health crisis, are at risk of inequality."

In a statement, UK education secretary Gavin Williamson said the government was "doing everything in." [its] power to support schools with high quality remote education. "

Williamson said: “These additional tools, in addition to the 100,000 delivered last week, add to the important support we offer to help schools deliver learning. high quality online, as we know they have been doing. "

The government has also unveiled a "remote education framework" to support schools and colleges in delivering home-learning education to pupils, designed to help teachers "identify strengths and areas for improvement in the lessons and the distance teaching they provide. , and draw on resources that help them develop where it is needed. "

The frameworks should be adapted by schools and colleges to suit their own context, he said.


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