Digital support was good but there are still issues

Digital support was good but there are still issues

The Scottish Government provided £25m to local authorities to help them to ensure that all young people had access to online learning. Approximately 70,000 devices and 14,000 internet connection 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 given every year for this purpose. The Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG) told us that “for children and families who got devices, that transformed things and made a big difference to their ability to engage.” Several organisations noted that there were significant difficulties in providing digital devices for children and young people who required them during the first lockdown. The situation improved a lot during the second lockdown, but we heard that not all families have a digital device including a significant proportion of low-income families. Some rural communities are also still experiencing issues with hardware, software, connectivity and access to digital learning. We learned that having a device to use is not enough, on its own, to support engagement with school, college or university. It demands access to the internet, 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 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; 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. Young people who have received a device recently will also need support to ensure that they know how to use it. Children in Scotland and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner also highlighted the limitations of digital engagement for children and young people with additional support needs who need specialist technology or more individualised home learning. The Committee encourages the Scottish Government to ensure that the work to roll out devices to children and young people recognises the wider work required to ensure that the policy achieves the desired positive outcomes.

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