In response to the closure of schools, I’ve called on Education Minister Gavin Williams to ensure that every child in Sheffield is able to access online learning. Currently, at least 5,000 local pupils are without access to a laptop.
Since October 22, a legal duty has been placed upon schools to provide remote education for pupils missing schools due to Covid-19. The Department for Education has claimed that schools are “well-prepared to deliver remote education”, with 560,000 laptops and tablets given to schools last year, and a further 100,000 this week. However, these figures fall well short of what is required and fail to ensure that children have access to an adequate internet connection.
Ofcom estimates that between 1.14 million and 1.78 million children in the UK (9 per cent) do not have home access to a laptop, desktop, or tablet and that more than 880,000 children live in a household with only a mobile internet connection.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, I’ve asked for “urgent responses as to when Sheffield will be receiving its full allocation of devices for vulnerable children and how you will be ensuring every child who needs it has access to the internet.”
In the first lockdown, schools were closed without a proper strategy in place to ensure children could learn remotely or that disadvantaged children had proper access to the tools to allow them to learn from home.
It is essential that pupils do not fall further behind and a clear plan is in place, not just to reopen schools safely, but to ensure children’s education is protected and working parents are supported.
That is why it is not only the provision of equipment but also affordable access to the internet that is essential if we are to halt the widening of the attainment gap and ensure disadvantaged pupils reach their potential and see no child priced out of the education they are entitled to.