Digital support was good but there are still some issues

Digital support was good but there are still some issues

The Scottish Government provided £25m to local authorities to support their efforts to ensure that all young people had access to online learning. Approximately 70,000 devices and 14,000 connectivity packages were delivered as a result of this funding. Colleges and universities received £5m in 2020/21 to support students to access online learning. In its Programme for Government, the Scottish Government announced that £5m would now be provided annually for this purpose. CPAG Scotland stated “for children and families who got devices, that transformed things and made a big difference to their ability to engage.” Several organisations noted, however, that there were significant difficulties in providing digital devices for children and young people who required them during the first lockdown. Although it was noted that the situation greatly improved during the second lockdown, the Children’s Parliament and CPAG Scotland both highlighted that it is still the case that not all families have a digital device. CPAG Scotland also stated that survey responses collected by them suggested that a significant proportion of low-income families could still be without a device. NASUWT highlighted that some rural communities are also still experiencing issues with hardware, software, connectivity and access to digital learning. It was noted repeatedly during the evidence sessions that having a device to use is not sufficient, on its own, to support engagement with school, college or university. It demands connectivity, which incurs both installation and running costs. Such costs were, and are, a barrier to many young people from lower-income households being able to engage fully in their education. In terms of moving forward, it was noted across the evidence sessions that, to ensure that a young person can have full digital access they need— 1. their own device, whether a tablet or laptop etc; 2. appropriate software; 3. an internet connection, with support for low-income families to help with any associated costs, and for those living in locations without access to a broadband connection; 4. on-going support to help maintain the device and update software; and 5. digital literacy skills – not only for the young person but also the family or carers supporting them. [It should be noted that family members may also have particular requirements, for instance they may be older if providing kinship care or may have English as an additional language.] The Committee encourages the Scottish Government to ensure that the work to roll out devices to children and young people recognises the wider requirements, as detailed above, to ensure that the policy achieves the desired outcomes and contributes to closing the ‘digital divide’. This wider work should recognise that access to the internet may be more challenging in rural locations.


There was not real training given to learners who have ASN or to parents on how to use the devices. There was significant security like AOVPN added to devices which restricted the use of these devices by untrained users and in rural areas and areas with poor internet access and bandwidth. Little consideration was given to the impact of online learning and the widespread disengagement of learners who found it boring.

We were in a fortunate position to already have iPads for S3-S6 students and now have devices for every young person in school. We filled the gaps at the time regarding lack of Wi-Fi but my concern is how we would continue to resource this going forwards. I do agree that we need to invest more in the education of parents and carers with regard to online learning.

Using SIMD to identify families who may need digital support can only go so far, those parents who won't come forward know or feel that they are being judged. Some families would rather suffer than come forward and face the humiliation that they need help and support. The whole philosophy of working with parents and families needs to change. The starting point is building trust and respect and some local authorities clearly don't know how to do this

You can provide all the digital technology to children, young people and their families, but if they are living with difficult and stressful circumstances with limited access or awareness of how to get support - then learning and development cannot happen even with the best internet connection and iPad

digital support was good in some settings but woeful in others. Families did not have devices, skills or internet access, sometimes sharing one mobile phone between several children.

Online learning is a poor substitute for face to face teaching regardless of what level of digital support there is.

It is admirable to provide a digital device to every child in Scotland - however, to ensure this can have a meaningful impact on their learning and skills - we need to provide every family home with broadband and the digital infrastructure and skills to maximise this incredible learning tool.

The results of the CITB Scotland Apprentice Support Survey undertaken in 2020 show that out of 1339 respondents, there were 117 instances of apprentices unable to complete their work digitally. There were 54 reports of no technology; 36 of sub-standard technology to complete the work; and 27 reports of limited access to technology due to device sharing. Separately, there were 161 reports of apprentices unable to access learning materials due to login issues with their college’s IT system.

Agreed that digital support was generally good but more thought needs to be given to ASL kids who can't engage with a screen the way they engage with a teacher.

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