With the election just a few weeks away, we applaud the strong statements from all major parties on education. The Learning Foundation sees this election as an opportunity to ask that the digital poverty suffered by up to 2 million disadvantaged schoolchildren and families is finally addressed by the new Government. The Learning Foundation is calling for all political parties to include three pledges, which would provide every school-aged child and young person with appropriate and safe technology so that their learning benefits from and reflects the needs of the current digitally sophisticated world.
The UK economy is increasingly dependent on having access to people with good digital skills. The impact to individuals and the wider economy of these skills not being sufficiently developed is significant and can lead to unfulfilled potential at one end of the spectrum through to financial and social exclusion at the other.
The Learning Foundation recognises that this issue is compounded early in life with inadequate access to the right digital tools at school. Our current research points to around one million families having inadequate access at home in order for their children to fully engage with their learning. This hinders learning outcomes and engagement and can entrench disadvantage early in life. We have made it our mission to eradicate this gap and ensure that every child in the UK has equal access to the right technology to support their personal learning journey.
We believe that every school age child has the right to safe access to the educational opportunities of the internet both in and out of school regardless of background or ability.
Our three pledges are:
1. Children are enabled and encouraged to learn beyond the school gate and the school day.
- Learning is not something that happens solely at school and all children should have the means and the ability to access learning and school resources outside of school.
- Learning cannot be exclusively delivered by children’s own teachers therefore, we believe, that all children should have managed access to additional experts and expertise.
- We ask that a device and the means to use it both at school and at home are provided to all those in need.
2. Parents are enabled to support their child’s learning and to keep them safe.
- Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children’s learning, and levels of parental engagement are consistently associated with better academic outcomes. The Education Endowment Fund’s evidence suggests that effective parental engagement can lead to learning gains of +3 months over the course of a year.
- In order to enable parents to build their confidence for regularly participating in their child’s learning and development schools must be provided with the funding to allow trained staff to give practical and timely advice on how best to support children’s learning. Help with setting up devices at home and training on the good use of mobile devices at home for parents and children is also essential to keep families safe.
3. Teachers are provided with access to excellent resources and information.
- If teachers are going to get the best out of technology in the classroom there needs to be investment in training to help them manage learning more effectively so saving them time and money and reducing stress. There also needs to be investment in greater resources to support their teaching, assessment and class and school management.