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Dear Nick (Minister of State for School Standards),
Remote Learning and the digital divide
As schools once again close their doors and move to online learning, I am concerned by the lack of progress made in ensuring all pupils have the necessary IT equipment and broadband to continue their learning at home.
With the lack of Government intervention, many community groups have stepped in to help fill the gap. Last year, the Sheffield Star teamed up with local businesses to launch the Laptops for Kids campaign to help get disadvantaged children access to a laptop, but still an estimated 11,000 pupils in Sheffield do not have access to a device.
The digital divide is not a new issue. However, the closure of schools has turned it into a national emergency. Without a laptop, pupils are at risk of having their education taken away from them.
I therefore urge you to ramp up efforts to ensure no child is left behind during this lockdown. Many children from low-income backgrounds are unable to continue their learning as they do not have access to a laptop, and many more are relying on using a parent’s smartphone which is far from adequate for completing schoolwork.
Even with the necessary hardware, many face difficulties in affording good quality broadband. It is welcomed that some mobile phone providers have committed to enhancing data packages for their customers on contracts. However, this does little to help those who use Pay as you Go, as many of those on low incomes do. The Government must step in to ensure that not only do all children have the hardware to complete online learning but sufficiently fast broadband to take part in interactive video lessons as well as access online resources.
We risk causing permanent damage to the future opportunities of our young people if we do not tackle this issue properly. I urge you to make the distribution of laptops and broadband a national priority so our pupils do not miss another day of learning.
Gill Furniss MP