Councillors in Huddersfield have formed an emergency fund to pay for IT apparatus and internet access for those families who are affected by the ‘digital divide’.
James Homewood, Amanda Pinnock, and Harpreet Uppal who represent Ashbrow for Labour acted after the Department for Education (DfE) told headteachers that allotments of laptops for underprivileged students had been cut down by around 80%.
The trio said the move came just two days after the government used Covid-19 emergency powers to enforce a new lawful duty on schools to offer remote schooling to any student incapable to attend classes because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Now, the trio is trying best to bridge the gap to reduce the local effect of digital exclusion. For the same, they have written to Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to raise their concerns.
Homewood said the impact of the government’s imposition of a legal duty is ‘really discouraging’ and ‘counter-productive’. He said, “We need to make sure that no child is left behind during this turbulent period”.
“I cannot reiterate how important access to IT equipment and the internet is right now. This move is just counter-productive”, he was quoted by the press as saying.
He added that “If we don’t get this right some young people and their families will be left behind and existing inequalities will be exacerbated. We are doing what we can locally to plug the gaps but we need more urgency at a national level”.
Homewood further added that he and some of his colleagues were informed about the plight of families who were struggling to have an access to IT equipment and internet connection.
However, the situation has been worsened further after the government announced the second lockdown.
Talking about the support, Homewood said, “Our community anchor, Local Services to You (LSTY) had a request for 19 laptops for one primary school as well as referrals from family support workers and social workers for IT support. There have also been requests for IT equipment to support older people to access activities such as virtual choirs”.