COVID-19 and the digital divide

A key challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic is the gap between the attainment of disadvantaged pupils as compared to their better-off peers. This was already a problem, as a 2017 Education Policy Institute study found that, by the end of GCSE’s, students who they consider disadvantaged (as measured by those eligible for free school meals), were an average of 19.2 months behind their peers (Andrews et al, 2017:10). The same study also found that of those considered ‘persistently disadvantaged’ (those eligible for Pupil Premium), only 16% got 5 or more GCSE’s at A*-C.

Covid and the (at the time of writing) 7 months of online learning has caused this gap to widen. Lally and Bermingham (2020:np) collated evidence on this subject. Because of how recent this development is, real data is hard to come by, but an indication of the extent to which covid has widened the gap can be found in a statement from the DofE’s Deputy Director for Pupil Premium where he estimated that the gap could increase to as much as 75%.

This is largely because of not having access to devices. According to the Sutton Trust, 15% of teachers said, when interviewed, that they did not think that all their students had access to a device. Our proposal of rejuvenating libraries would remedy this problem by providing devices and internet connection for free to young people who need it. Details will be explained below, but this would help disadvantaged young people who are less likely to have these things as well as providing them with a quiet space conducive to work (as people would only venture there to do so).




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