Sutton Trust study highlights digital divide

It is the first of a series of in-depth briefings looking at the impact of the coronavirus crisis on social mobility

The Sutton Trust’s study, Covid-19 Impacts: School Shutdown, shows that a large proportion (42%) of teachers in private schools thought all of their students would have adequate access to an electronic device for learning, compared to 9% in the most well-off state schools, and 2% in the poorest state schools, highlighting a digital divide between sectors.

Just 4% of teachers in private schools said they thought more than a third of their class would not have adequate internet access, while 3% of teachers in the most affluent state schools agreed with this statement and 12% of teachers in the most deprived schools.

Teachers in private schools were also much more likely to think all their students would have adequate access to the internet, with 38% saying so, compared to only 12% in the most affluent state schools and only 2% in the most deprived state schools.

The report by Carl Cullinane and Rebecca Montacute said: “The closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for everyone involved, from the students themselves, to their teachers and their parents.

“Since the end of March, schools have been closed to all but the children of key workers and specific groups of vulnerable children, with provision for most pupils moved online.

“However, not all students will have equal access to this online provision, and without additional action, this risks further opening-up already existing attainment gaps, with the impacts felt the most by those from the poorest backgrounds.

This risks further opening-up already existing attainment gaps, with the impacts felt the most by those from the poorest backgrounds

“Issues range from technology and internet availability, to the level of access children have to additional support, and the resources available for schools to conduct remote learning.”

Simon Carter, marketing and propositions director at RM Education, commented on the report: “It’s only through the technologies many of us take for granted every day such as laptops and stable internet connections that pupils and their families have been able to adapt to home learning so quickly.

“However, as this report highlights, not every student currently has access to the tools needed to enable learning from home.

“Ensuring access to technology needs to be the cornerstone of every school’s education strategy, and it’s vital that all students have access to all forms of learning – irrespective of their background.”

He urged more disadvantaged schools to “take advantage of the Government’s generosity” in offering free laptops and 4G routers and/or fully funded remote learning platforms.

The report concludes by looking at possible mitigation strategies open to schools and the government, in order to try to reduce any impact on the already wide attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils, and protect the prospects for long-term social mobility.


Read the full report: https://www.suttontrust.com/our-research/covid-19-and-social-mobility-impact-brief/

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