Overview

With the majority of children in the UK now learning from home as part of another national lockdown, addressing the digital divide is more important than ever. Ofcom estimated that at the start of the pandemic, 1.8m children were without adequate access to devices, and almost a million were without an acceptable connection to the internet; the majority of these coming from low-income families. Without a device, an internet connection, or a suitable space to work, it is much harder for students to keep up with their learning from home, and the attainment gap between rich and poor will widen.

Our polling in March 2020 found that there was a significant divide between children attending private schools and those attending state schools in terms of digital access. This updated polling, conducted in early January by TeacherTapp, finds that this situation has not substantially improved.

32%

A third of teachers in the most deprived schools report more than 1 in 5 pupils lack devices

5%

Just 5% of state school teachers report that all of their class has adequate internet access

66%

Two thirds of schools have used their own resources to buy IT equipment for pupils

Key Findings
  • In the first week of the January 2021 lockdown, just 10% of teachers overall report that all their students have adequate access to a device for remote learning. While 17% report that more than 1 in 5 of their students don’t have such access. This is not substantially different to the situation in last spring’s lockdown.
  • Just 5% of teachers in state schools report that all their students have a device, compared to 54% at private schools.
  • While 32% of teachers in the most deprived schools report more than 1 in 5 lacking devices, this is just 5% at the most affluent state schools and even lower, 3%, at private schools. This gap appears to have increased since March 2020.
  • 11% of teachers overall report than more than 1 in 5 of their pupils don’t have adequate internet access for learning, slightly more than the 9% who reported this in March 2020. 21% of those in the most deprived schools report more than 1 in 5 pupils lack internet, compared to 3% in the most affluent state schools, and just 1% at private schools.
  • Increased expectations from government for more intensive remote learning, along with greater awareness among teachers of their pupils’ home situation may be contributing to the apparent lack of progress.
  • Almost half (47%) of state school senior leaders report their school has only been able to supply half of their pupils or fewer with the laptops they have needed.
  • In the most deprived schools, 56% of leaders report they haven’t been able to help half or more of their pupils who needed devices. This compares with 39% at the most affluent state schools.
  • As the government roll-out of laptops stalled in the autumn, many schools have used their own resources to address the issue. Two thirds (66%) of senior leaders in state schools reported needing to source IT equipment for disadvantaged pupils themselves while waiting for government support.