In a report published today, RISE recommends that there should be a virtual learning coordinator in every school to end the digital divide. This will enable disadvantaged children to fully take part in the blended learning environment.

Evidence from the Lloyds Bank Group suggests that 12% of those aged between 11 and 18 years (700,000 children) reported having no access at home to a computer or tablet.

Similarly, the digital inclusion charity, The Good Things Foundation, found 23% of 5-15 year olds in the poorest households do not have access to both an educationally ideal device (laptop, desktop or tablet) and broadband.

Most of the tutoring under the government’s £1bn “catch up fund” (announced in June) won’t start until January next year and organisations are still submitting tenders to provide the tutoring services. According to an investigation by Schools Week, 40% of the £350m “massive catch-up operation” has so far been unallocated.

To address this digital divide the report, authored by Prof Sonia Blandford & John Baumber recommend that schools should create a Virtual Learning Coordinator (VLC) position within the senior leadership team. This would:

  • provide or source digital training and professional development for all teachers and learning support assistants to enable all professionals to have the expertise needed for virtual teaching
  • support virtual communication between parents, teachers, and children, that would enable all teachers to check children are engaging with online teaching.
  • link online and face-to-face teaching under one new management structure so the development of digital competencies is linked to improved learning.

Professor Sonia Blandford said:

“As much of the country heads into a new set of restrictions due to Covid-19, it is vital that schools grapple with this now.

“Online and blended learning is going to become a routine part of our education system, and unless schools rapidly reform and future proof themselves, we will let a generation of children down.

“A Virtual Learning Coordinator in every school will oversee the digital training of staff, investment in technology, provide that vital link between children, parents and teachers so we can be sure students are engaging with online learning, to ensure a smooth transition between the classroom and the tablet and to check that every child has access to the relevant technology when they can’t be in the classroom.”

Andrea Jenkyns MP (RISE director) said:

“We set up RISE to help the government realise its aim of levelling up, because as the Prime Minister knows, there’s as much skill, talent and genius in the North as there is anywhere else in the country.

“With schools, colleges and universities shutting down, with some of society’s most vulnerable students being deprived of an education, falling behind in their social development, and often not having access to the internet at home, there is so much work still to be done to make sure we deliver on those election promises of just ten months ago.

“RISE looks forward to working with schools to end the digital divide and make sure all students, wherever in the country they come from, has the opportunity to make the most of their education and their talents.”



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