MP COLUMN: Creating a digital divide among pupils

Our schools are a vital to expanding equality and social justice.

Thursday, 18th June 2020, 7:00 am
Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP.

Every lost day damages the prospects of children, especially those from poorer backgrounds.

Despite the best efforts of teachers and parents, about two thirds of pupils cannot access online tuition and this is creating a digital divide.

Many teachers say that one third of their pupils don’t have adequate access. Most headteachers haven’t yet received a single laptop to plug the attainment gap.

There’s all-party support for a Labour MP’s Bill calling for internet access and adequate computer devices for 1.3 million poorer pupils who are eligible for free school meals.

Supporters rightly caution this is not a silver bullet that will fully close the digital divide or make up for months away from school. But it is the least we can do for now.

An emergency programme for our pupils should also include a plan that is akin in its scale to boosting health capacity through the Nightingale hospitals.

The Conservative Chair of the Education Select Committee rightly argues for a catch-up premium and a summer tutoring programme. That could include a new army of education volunteers and televised teaching.

Such proposals could stop pupils falling even further behind. I’m pleased that the PM has finally accepted Marcus Rashford’s powerful plea to keep the free food voucher scheme over this year’s summer holidays

Our economy will suffer for years and the lives of many pupils will be blighted without such actions and as a matter of urgency.

Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP.