With schooling moved online, the challenges faced by pupils continue. Lack of internet access and technological resources are widening the already sizeable equality gap, and the Government must act now, argues Shadim Hussain.

As Covid-19 has restricted people's movements, companies have been swift to accommodate their employees in continuing life digitally. Some schools have been slower on the uptake with school managers, teachers and their unions struggling to adapt. As lockdowns rumble on, a whole generation of school children are suffering from the effects of 'educational scarring'.

This will not only harm their life chances, but will in future place an unquantifiable strain on our economy and public services. It is time for the Government to implement some robust national digital learning measures in order to boost social mobility, which will be the key to our economic recovery. This needs to be led from the top down to ensure consistency and fairness, rather than being left up to each school.

This should be a national priority, particularly as there is already talk of annual Winter lockdowns and more pandemics in future. Although less likely to contract the virus, Covid-19 has impacted children the hardest by exacerbating pre-existing educational inequalities: 12% of 11 to 18 year olds do not have internet access at home, and 40% of pupils do not have access to a home computer. This is especially prevalent amongst BAME communities, where families have more children on average, meaning competition for digital devices at home will be fiercer.

Private school children are twice as likely to attend the online classes, and almost double as likely to hand in homework. Access to the internet and digital tools is increasing the social divide between our children and stunting children's ambitions to improve their lot in life. If children do not have the ongoing ability to learn from home, their educational development will be held hostage to scientific advisers.

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Fewer life chances because of educational disruption doesn't just harm those children, but our society and economy. The relationship between healthy economic growth and high levels of social mobility has long been established, as has the internet's ability to promote social mobility. By excluding vast numbers of pupils from the potential gained through an internet connection, we are hampering our potential to recover from the deep economic recession that the UK faces over the coming years.

The Government has already acted, and promised £100 million to boosting remote education. However, no guarantee has been made that every child will receive access to the internet. In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council declared access to the internet to be a human right. But more importantly, in the post-Covid world, it will be part of the Government's duty to provide education.

If we continue to neglect the educational needs of our most vulnerable children, our claims to being a meritocratic society must be called into question. Neglecting educational tools will have dire economic consequences for our nation. Children with high potential but poor educational performance are less likely to go on to higher education or employment. Without a focus to their lives, many more will be drawn to gangs and drug dealing, as has already been seen throughout the pandemic. This also makes financial sense: it is cheaper to pay for some dongles now than to pay for drug rehab, prisons and probation officers later.

Learning digitally can also ease the strain on our schooling system as it provides more ways for children to learn outside of school hours. Half of key stage 1 teachers have classes of 29 to 30 pupils – for many children, sitting at home and re-watching video lessons may give them a chance to focus more than a crowded, noisy, classroom – especially without the peer pressure of perhaps being 'to cool for school'.

No-one knows how long this lockdown could go on for, or how many more there will be in future. We cannot work on the assumption that children will be back in school soon and for the long-term. We must prepare for the worst, and make provisions for the most vulnerable children in our society – not only for their sake, but for the sake of social mobility and the economic benefits that come with it.

Universal internet access should be seen in the same way as universal healthcare – something that binds Brits together in national pride, and gives us all a fair shot at life.

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