Digital inequality ‘holding millions of school children back’, warns Digital Poverty Alliance

Millions of school children across the UK are being held back due to digital inequality, as the turbulent economy is worsening the digital divide in deprived areas, according to the Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA).

Research from Deloitte and the DPA highlighted that 20 per cent of children across the UK are impacted by digital poverty, through a lack of access to an electronic device, broadband connectivity or digital skills. To tackle the issue, the DPA, in collaboration with Amazon, the Learning Foundation, charity partner In Kind Direct and Tech First launched the Tech4Schools scheme in 2022 to provide underprivileged schools with devices and digital skills training.

Elizabeth Anderson, CEO of the Digital Poverty Alliance, commented: “Digital exclusion remains a critical issue across the UK, made worse by the cost-of-living crisis squeezing household budgets and forcing families to make a choice between dinner or devices. This digital inequality is holding millions of school children back as they lack access to a device to complete online lessons or homework, causing their education to suffer.”

“We launched the Tech4Schools team with our partners two years ago with the goal of increasing access to devices and skills for schools in disadvantaged communities and ultimately improving the education of children in those areas. Two years on, we’ve seen greater engagement from children with access to these devices as we lay the groundwork for a more prosperous future. The current cohort of school children are the next generation of leaders and innovators in the UK, and we must collectively give them the education and platform they deserve to thrive.”

As part of the Tech4Schools scheme, 23 schools in disadvantaged communities were identified to receive funding for devices and peripherals for students to use both in school and at home.

Key findings from the data gathered were that high device usage in schools increased learners’ digital self-efficacy and engagement with the scheme which also boosted learners’ participation in school activities.

Teachers noted the potential to alleviate financial pressures on parents and advocated to expand the scheme, whereas parents raised questions about its eligibility criteria.

Results also revealed that parents and teachers agree that the scheme facilitated access that enabled learners to complete homework.

However, the government recently launched a crackdown on mobile phones in schools in an attempt to minimise disruption and improve behaviour in classrooms.

“For some children their mobile phone is the only device they own, or even their family own, which is where the serious issue lies. Children shouldn’t be relying on smartphones which are completely unsuitable for learning and are more likely to expose them to online safety concerns. Laptops are a learning tool which better protect children from those harms, with safeguarding software that prevents access to dangerous or inappropriate content.

We need to focus on giving children the correct tools, like laptops, and understanding that smartphones aren’t enough to tackle digital poverty in schools” Anderson said.

The analysis was conducted by researchers at Nottingham Trent University who investigated which learners utilised the device, the factors that influenced utilisation and the effects of device use on school engagement and digital self-efficacy. 

The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) was used to understand the factors influencing children’s intent to use the devices provided. Indicators within the TAM include intention to use, perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and perceived satisfaction. 

Related posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.