The Digital Divide: Accounting for Inequality During Lockdown

In March last year, the UK government announced a national lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic. All normal daily activities disrupted, education of a whole generation of young people interrupted.

When schools closed and in-person instruction for most children ceased, schools turned to educational technology. Although the use of digital technology is an intrinsic part of teaching and learning, delivering online lessons to children remotely is not.

Teachers suddenly found themselves not only having to find the software or applications for online teaching, but also having to deal with new technology for delivering the lessons. Teachers also had to think about safe platforms to use for posting work, pictures, feedback and having conversations/messages with individuals or groups, with national resources becoming popular, such as the Department for Education-funded Oak National Academy website and a dedicated BBC Bitesize service.

This move towards technology exposed the stark digital divide that exists in this country. Many of the poorest children are likely to be the most severely affected. For example, Office for National Statistics survey data published in 2019 tells us that around 60,000 children aged 11 to 18 in the UK do not have internet connectivity in their home, and around 700,000 do not have a computer, laptop, tablet or iPad at home. These children have not been able to benefit from online lessons or resources. Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club have come to the assistance of the Bridge learning Campus who urgently needed 50 devices. We have now provided them with 60 laptops and tablets and £1500 to help briidge the digital divide.

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