The University of Bath is coordinating a campaign to help disadvantaged students access the relevant technology to continue their schooling online during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Students aged 16-19 currently have limited support to help them access online learning resources and the University and its partners, including digital outreach and university access charities, want to plug this gap.
The aim of the University’s ‘Digital Divide Project’ is to provide a single, combined response from the education, charity, and corporate sectors to reach those students in most need of help, and establish the best way of providing support.
The University of Bath’s Widening Access Team is working with numerous partners (see list below) and liaising with schools, colleges and academy chains to understand the scale of the issue so that action can be taken as quickly as possible.
“Many thousands of students are struggling to access online learning with lockdown exacerbating the so-called ‘digital divide’ in the UK,” comments Dr Andrew Ross, Head of Widening Access and Participation at the University of Bath. “It can be particularly hard for 16-19 year-olds to access the help they need.
“This presents a pressing, and rapidly growing, problem of disadvantaged students becoming further disadvantaged as they fall behind in their studies. We’re calling on schools, colleges, universities, charities and the private sector to pool our knowledge and resources, to address this issue as a matter of urgency. These young people deserve the best chance of success and must be able to access education.”
Key priorities for the partnership include; identifying the students who most urgently need help; sourcing and delivering the physical hardware (such as laptops and internet dongles); providing practical support to students for making best use of the equipment; and establishing best practice in delivering digital outreach.
The University is working with a broad range of charities and partners on the initiative: The Brilliant Club, Brightside, IntoUniversity, Mangorolla CIC, Mathematics in Education and Industry, Nuffield Foundation, Smallpiece Trust, Villiers Park, Wessex Inspiration Network and Universities UK.
In April, the Government announced a support package for vulnerable and disadvantage students aged under 16 in recognition of the 1.9 million households that have no access to the internet, and the millions more that are reliant on pay-as-you-go services.