Digital divide in UK schools

Digital divide emerges as new research from BESA finds ‘˜poor’™ pupil access to computers in half of all UK schools

Pupils in more than half of all UK state schools have poor access to ICT and computers according to new research released by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

Poor wireless (Wi-Fi) provision was cited as a major problem in many schools with 65% of primary schools and 54% of secondary schools considering themselves under-resourced in Wi-Fi connectivity. 

A significant number of schools also reported that they were under-resourced in broadband provision (42% of primary schools and 31% of secondary schools). 

Caroline Wright, BESA director said: “British teachers are world-leaders in the use of educational-technology in the classroom so it is of great concern that pupils are being denied access to innovative and effective digital learning because of poor internet connectivity in more than half of the UK’s schools.

“In today’s digital society, classroom connectivity to an online world of knowledge and resources should be a right for every student in their place of learning and not a lottery.”

Changes in the Government’s assessment arrangements also appears to have prompted an increase in the need for continuing professional development (CPD) with 60% of primary schools surveyed identifying a need for teachers to receive assessment training over the coming year.

Continued increases in the numbers of tablet computers used in schools also prompted 53% of primary schools to anticipate a need for teacher training in the use of the technology by 2016. 

Whilst today’s survey highlights a growing concern over classroom connectivity, on a more positive note the report highlights the fact that the number of computers in use in UK schools is expected to increase by 50,000 units in primary schools and 92,000 units in secondary schools. The increasing adoption of tablet technology in schools, with its lower cost per device, is also contributing to the fact that more children have access to a computing device.

ICT budgets are also expected to grow during 2014/15 by 5.5% to an average of £14,450 per primary school and by 9.0%, to £64,400 in a typical secondary school.

Wright added: “BESA urges the Government to consider the findings of today’s report and take speedy action to ensure that every child has the opportunity to benefit from an education that harnesses the power of educational technology and equips them with the digital skills they need to achieve success in our 21st century knowledge economy.”