MPs back teachers’ bid to prevent ‘digital divide’ in Suffolk schools
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Suffolk MPs are to press the Department for Education to ensure schools have the funds to avoid a “digital divide” opening up between their pupils in the post-coronavirus world of learning.
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt and Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter have both backed school leaders who this week warned that children would continue to need to learn at home even after they return to the classrooms.
However, they said young people would need computers or tablets - and that there would need to be support for children from families who did not have access to this technology. They urged the government to give schools funds to be able to buy equipment for disadvantaged pupils.
That call has now been supported by the MPs. Mr Hunt said: “It is very important that schools do all they can to support children from deprived families. There is not time to get anything in place in time for those returning next week – but there would be time to get it set up in time from September.
“It is clear that there will still be some social distancing, smaller classes and fewer children in schools on any given day – so they will have to be learning at home and they will need access to this technology.
“If you have three children at home all needing to do their school work and only one computer for the whole family, then that puts them at a huge disadvantage.”
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And he backed the school’s calls for their heads to be given the chance to allocate the technology: “No-one knows the needs of individual children and their families more than the heads of their schools. We should trust them on this.”
Dr Poulter said it should be possible to channel money to schools for disadvantaged students through the pupil premium – and agreed with the heads that it was important to get funding from the government, not from raising funds.
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He said: “It is good when parent teacher associations or businesses support schools – but for something like this the schools that have the most to spend on vital equipment for learning are likely to be those which need it the least. The government has to support the schools that need it most in places like north-west Ipswich.”
Schools such as Pipers Vale Academy and Copleston High School, in Ipswich, have loaned chromebooks to pupils to ensure young people can access online learning.
However, Pipers Vale decided to make hard copies of home-schooling workbooks after recognising that many children simply did not have access to their own computer.