Mover: Sam Cumber.
Summation: Janey Little.
Motion as passed by conference
Conference notes that:
- Being able to easily access online learning resources and activities is imperative for networks, learning and communication in the modern digital age, allowing people to collaborate and overcome physical barriers and limitations.
- Many young people cannot access the internet for various reasons, such as regional or financial inequality. These often intersect, particularly in rural areas, many of which lack broadband access and also suffer from high levels of poverty. Similarly, poorer parts of metropolitan areas are affected by both underinvestment and persistent poverty.
- During a time where educational institutions are being disrupted, either due to COVID-19 or other reasons, technology is important for the continuation of learning, allowing teachers and students to access each other and share work and resources.
- Under the leadership of Liberal Democrat Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, the re-purposing of existing stocks of laptops and distribution of internet routers to disadvantaged learners happened far more quickly in Wales than in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Conference believes that:
- Those unable to access online learning resources and activities for financial or other reasons are at a significant disadvantage.
- Material should be readily available in all formats (including large print, audio and Braille) and via assistive technology products and services for pupils with SEND.
- Internet connections vary across the country and can affect the usability and efficacy of some technologies.
- Every student should have access to online resources and up-to-date technology and software.
- Where courses are disrupted through emergencies such as COVID-19, colleges and universities should adopt a policy for grading students that takes the impact on students’ outcomes into account. This includes, but is not limited to, no-detriment clauses or other safety net policies.
Conference calls for:
- The government to offer universities funding to establish digital inclusion bursaries for items such tablets or laptops for students from disadvantaged families in order to help with home and remote learning including assistive technology products and services to meet the needs of students with SEND and any training required to support students and teachers in making use of these.
- The government to ensure every disadvantaged family and students have access to broadband that would be sufficient enough for home learning, by requiring internet service providers to offer a social tariff for broadband.
- Universities to offer guidance on working and learning from home.
- Greater communication between Universities and government to allow them to deliver these bursaries.
- The use of 4G/5G routers as a temporary fix for places without a proper broadband infrastructure in order to improve internet access in parts of the country where internet speeds are slow.
- The government to conduct a comprehensive review into digital exclusion among children and young people, including both long-running challenges and those exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The government to tackle digital exclusion by developing and funding a strategy that addresses the findings of this review.
Applicability: England only.