Waking up the other day to the news that the Government was to provide IT equipment for students who are vulnerable and disadvantaged, I thought I must still be dreaming. I was over the moon! At last the Government was taking measures to finally support those most in need. But then came the small print…
To take a few steps back, I want to be explicitly clear about what I know about families who are living in poverty.
Child poverty is rampaging our country, bringing in its wake significant health and food inequalities and a quite frankly shameful attainment gap within our education system between those that are disadvantaged and those that are not.
Add to this mix the Coronavirus epidemic and you can begin to see how trapped families in poverty must be feeling. If you are living in cramped conditions, especially if you have children, then not being able to leave the house must be beyond challenging.
Schools have been given the directive that no child should be left behind in this unique set of circumstances and teachers are trying to tutor children between the ages of four and 18 without actually having them in the classroom, using a range of apps that require equipment and internet access. So pressure is being put on parents and carers to home school their children with no prior knowledge of teaching and activities are being provided that require finances that many families just do not have.
Children North East’s response to some of this has been to work with schools to distribute resources. We recognise the significant challenges many students face who do not have the technological resources to complete this work and, with four per cent of all families without sufficient IT equipment, this is a significant gap.
Back to the Government response and the small print of the announcement. Schools are being encouraged to provide IT equipment… but only to certain students such as Year 10s who have GCSEs on the horizon; children working with social services or in care and there’s a Government bursary scheme that 16-18s can apply to through their educational provider.
“Our question is: WHY CAN IT NOT BE FOR EVERYONE?”
Schools, by their very nature, have a lot of IT equipment. We know of examples of schools that have distributed some of this technology – could other schools follow suit and loan equipment to those who need it now?
Poverty will increase over the coming months and years, with another recession on the horizon. Some families are already feeling the effects of the Coronavirus crisis with some having been made redundant and others furloughed on 80% of their usual salary.
“The rising tide of poverty is dragging people, who were only just getting by, further under – so asking them now to provide resources and equipment that would usually be available within the school day, is just too much to ask.”
If we are to support those children who are living with the most disadvantage, alongside those who are now experiencing disadvantage for the first time, in order not to let their education fall behind, we MUST ensure that access is provided to resources and equipment whilst schools are closed.