One-in-four school children in Tower Hamlets (approx. 10,000 students) are still unable to access online learning
Fear that this digital disadvantage could translate to an education and opportunity gap between those with access and those without
Every Child Online has launched in Tower Hamlets with the hope of ending digital disadvantage. A coalition of the council, broadband provider Community Fibre and a local education partnership are calling for support to ensure every school-aged child has a digital device and an internet connection to access their online learning.
They want to raise £1 million to make an immediate impact where it’s needed most before starting the long-term work of ensuring every school child in the borough has both the kit and the connectivity to level up the digital divide.
The divide between those who can access online learning, and those who cannot, highlights what has been known in education circles for some time – whilst potential is distributed evenly, opportunity is not.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “Every day of learning lost is a barrier to success for local children. I’m pleased to launch Every Child Online which is putting opportunity back into those households that are digitally disadvantaged. Getting children online and in control of their learning is an essential step towards helping them to realise their potential.”
Every Child Online follows a survey of local schools, which estimated that 10,000 devices are needed, beyond that which has already been provided by the Department of Education.
Tower Hamlets Council has pledged £50,000 to the total already. In addition, it has coordinated the sourcing, prioritisation and distribution of over 9,000 laptops from the Department for Education, with a further 250 laptops donated by the council directly.
Educators fear that unless the problem is addressed quickly, the gulf between those who have access to learning from home and those who do not will widen and lead to huge differences in attainment and opportunity with life-long consequences for those who find themselves on the wrong side of this digital divide.
Brendan Crossan, Director of Operations, Tower Hamlets Education Partnership, said: “Local schools are delivering fantastic results but, like elsewhere, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has had, and may continue to have, an impact on children’s learning. It’s so important that every child is able to get online to access their education.”
Graeme Oxby, CEO of Community Fibre, said: “We are delighted to partner with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Tower Hamlets Education Partnership to fight digital exclusion. Community Fibre strives to support communities it serves in London and build a more inclusive digital future in the city. We were the first fixed broadband provider to offer 1-year free 50Mbps broadband to vulnerable households in conjunction with our social landlord partners to help with home schooling through the lockdown.”