During such a strange year, here at the EDI Collective, we are asking whether vulnerable BAME students have been forgotten during the COVID pandemic.
According to estimates from Ofcom, nine percent of the student body, primarily BAME students, do not have access to a laptop, desktop, or a tablet. Leaving many teaching professionals worried that with most students isolating at home, they are at risk of falling behind.
In Manchester, during the first six weeks of the school year, 577 schools had been forced to send at least some students home. Leaving teachers to juggle a full timetable of online learning and being unable to support students with less capacity at home.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders says,
“Our impression is that the government has never fully grasped the scale of the challenge both in terms of the number of devices that are needed and of ensuring that families have the connectivity they require’’
Barton continues, ‘’It is very frustrating that progress has been so slow on this front even though it has been discussed for many months’’.
The Good Law Project has accused ministers of forcing poorer BAME students to attend school at the height of the pandemic due to a shortage of digital devices. However, for schools nationwide the pandemic comes after successive budget cuts and the ‘laptop gap’ is merely symbolic of the lack of funding within secondary education.
As the country endures another lockdown, CCS IT Solutions LTD, based in Manchester, has developed a new initiative to gather as many devices as possible to share within the school community.
Restoring old laptops with minor faults, CCS IT Solutions carry out the necessary checks, and get them up to speed and ready to use. These checks include a wipe of all data, conforming to industry-standard regulations and data regulation.
In the meantime, as the pandemic still rages on, the success of young people’s education will depend upon whether they attend schools that have managed to survive the ‘laptop gap’. According to Dominic Cummings ‘’school- teachers have done what they have done best and got on with it’’ and suggests that if the government had waited for support then nothing would have happened.
However, the question remains have the government done enough to support schools in Greater Manchester and across the country in providing support for BAME students who do not have access to a laptop or the internet.
Ultimately, the ‘laptop gap’ caused by the COVID and the lack of government support, has had a severe effect on the education of children across the UK.
Written by Sian Jones