Thousands of vulnerable Scots families don’t have equipment for online learning

Tens of thousands of Scots youngsters don’t have the equipment they need at home to take part in schooling, including digital devices for online learning.

The Scottish Government has pledged extra funding for laptops

Campaigners are now calling for a national action plan to be put in place as Scotland prepares to adopt a regime of part-time schooling with half of learning now taking place at home. The “blended” schooling approach will get under way when schools go back in August.Nicola Sturgeon unveiled plans to invest £9 million for 25,000 laptops or tablets, with internet access provided, for disadvantaged children. It comes as early findings from new research indicate that many of the poorest families in Scotland would not be equipped for home learning.John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group said: “If we are serious about tackling the attainment gap it is vital that no child is disadvantaged in the new blended schooling model as a result of their family’s low income or lack of resources at home.“It is clear from our work that not having books, stationery, craft materials or digital equipment and connectivity creates real barriers that need to be addressed as a matter of utmost urgency. That’s why the First Minister’s announcement of investment in laptops for disadvantaged learners is so important.”The Child Poverty Action Group is conducting research involving 2,000 parents and carers, as well as 800 children to better understand the impact of learning from home. Early findings show that about a third of parents and carers receiving free meals say that they do not have everything they need at home to take part in learning. With about 250,000 youngsters eligible for free school meals, numbers affected are likely to reach the tens of thousands. Missing items include devices suitable for online work, printers, jotters, stationery and craft materials. Many who have access to devices are sharing them.Among the examples which emerged were a fourth year pupil in Edinburgh with no computer access and only phone internet access, resulting in him not doing “any” school work.Another mother of four in Glasgow told researchers that laptops or tablets are much too expensive to buy for her children. It means they have usually missed schoolwork during lockdown. A second year pupil in Angus described how she had to share a laptop with her brothers and sisters and was doing “little” school work.

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