Poor digital access and lack of tech for UK teachers ‘holding back remote learning’
Nearly half (47%) of teachers lack tech facilities at home harm their ability to teach remotely, according to new research.
The Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA) and Dixons Carphone have today released research revealing that almost half of teachers lack adequate tech provision at home to enable them to teach remotely.
As young people await the results of A-Level and GCSEs following an academic year in which pupils lost around a third of their learning time as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, the DPA is publishing the research to highlight the need for greater public investment in digital inclusion to improve equality of education and address digital poverty.
With remote learning likely to continue in some capacity for many schools and being a daily fact of life for ill or excluded children, the research suggests major challenges with the UK’s readiness to support remote education.
The findings come from new research among 700 teachers in 200 schools across the UK which revealed that 47% said they did not have adequate technology at home to enable them to carry out teaching work remotely.
The numbers making up the 47% are:
• 24% had internet access, but they did not have a suitable device on which to work • 16% had reliable internet, but only had one suitable device at home that had to be shared with others in their household • 7% said their internet connection did not have adequate data
Many respondents also lacked access to a suitable device for home working, with 20% saying they had access to a mobile phone but no other suitable device.
• 66% had access to a laptop • 11% said they had access to a desktop computer
Just 53% said their home internet set-up was fully suitable for home working. If these results were representative of the wider UK teaching population, this would mean between 250,000 and 295,000 teachers are lacking suitable means to deliver remote teaching from home.
The research was carried out in June and July 2021 in schools with a high level of ‘pupil premium grant’ children, meaning children from low-income backgrounds. These results give insight into the reality behind a series of similar questions that were posed to Gavin Williamson by the House of Lords COVID-19 Committee on 18th June as part of their investigation into the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on children and families.
Paul Finnis, CEO of the Digital Poverty Alliance said, “These shocking results expose the difficulties faced by teachers in fulfilling their responsibilities due to a lack of essential digital access. As a result, many will have been unable to help their students prepare for this year’s exams to their full potential.
“This pandemic has revealed the staggering disadvantages facing many teachers as well as their pupils. The UK is facing not just a legacy of lost learning that children have had to cope with during lockdown, but also the lost opportunities for supporting their learning and their lives at home by providing the access they needed to the digital world over the past year.
“We cannot close the country’s educational attainment gap unless the government also addresses and levels up digital inequality. Urgent focus is needed to support not just disadvantaged children, but also those tasked with their education.” According to Ofcom research from April 2021, digital poverty affects millions nationwide, with 1.5m UK homes still having no internet access. On top of this, during the pandemic, 20% of children did not always have a device for online learning while schools were closed, and 4% of school-age children had to rely solely on mobile internet access during the pandemic. This means that low-income families with children have additional costs to consider in order to make sure their children have access to online learning and to not fall behind in school.
The Digital Poverty Alliance is a non-profit, member organisation, supported by Dixons Carphone, the business behind Currys PC World, and the Institute of Engineering and Technology, with the aim of eradicating digital poverty.
Assad Malic, Group Strategy & Corporate Affairs Director at Dixons Carphone said: “The research findings highlight the very reason Dixons Carphone became a founding partner of the Digital Poverty Alliance and pledged £1m to equip 1,000 teachers with technology to the benefit of 30,000 pupils. Our business exists to help everyone enjoy amazing technology and supporting teachers is our first priority, they have been among the heroes of the pandemic and the findings show how immense the digital divide is in education. We’re committed to making a difference and would urge others to recognise the issue and provide valuable funding.”
The results of this survey will form part of the guidance that the DPA uses as it seeks to work with Government, business, charity and not for profit stakeholders to drive a national digital poverty strategy. As part of this, the DPA will be launching a Community Board and digital community platform this autumn to bring together key voices in this area. More information can be found at digitalpovertyalliance.org
Lord Jim Knight, the Chair of the Digital Poverty Alliance Board, commented: “Without a clear and co-ordinated national strategy to drive digital inclusion, which considers the needs of people and their support networks, the UK cannot hope to deliver a long-term robust recovery plan from the Coronavirus pandemic. Teachers much be equipped to provide equality of education to all to build the skills of the next generation”
200 schools were invited to take part in the survey by the Learning Foundation as part of the Tech4Teachers programme and were asked if they could circulate to their teachers to complete. 700 teachers responded overall. Respondents could select more than one answer about what devices they had access to (meaning some of those who had access to a laptop may also have access to a desktop computer). The results were analysed by the Learning Foundation and Digital Poverty Alliance.