To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the effect of digital exclusion on the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers; and what steps he is taking to reduce the level of digital exclusion.
24 May 2021
The Department recognised that a lack of digital access posed a risk to the efficacy of remote education during the COVID-19 outbreak. In response, over £400 million was invested to support access to remote education as an injection of support to minimise digital exclusion. Over 1.3 million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, academy trusts, local authorities and further education colleges. Over 100,000 families have been supported to get online by providing uplifts in mobile data and 4G wireless routers.
Through our existing grant funding partnership with Nesta, in autumn 2020 the Department launched the EdTech Reserach and Development Programme. This programme will further our understanding of the impact of technology in education, particularly the impact and disparity between advantaged and disadvantaged students in attainment and outcomes during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The programme includes the evaluation of six remote education tools being used in schools and colleges in England. The first evaluation cycle is complete, with iterations to the products underway. A final evaluation cycle is due to be completed by the end of the summer term, and a concluding report with key findings on using remote education tools effectively for all students, with particular recommendations for disadvantaged students, will also be shared with the wider sector by December 2021.
The Department is also working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to improve broadband connections in schools. DCMS has powers to address some affordability issues for some telecoms services.