Portsmouth MP Stephen Morgan and Labour candidate for Central Southsea Charlotte Gerada have teamed up to warn today that the government is making “empty promises”, as schools across the area report that pupils still do not have access to the laptops needed to learn remotely.
This comes at a time when most of England’s 8.8 million school children continue to learn from home, yet over a quarter of laptops the government has promised to deliver to pupils struggling to learn remotely have not yet been delivered.
Portsmouth Labour has been calling on the government to adopt its plan to get every child online, including:
- Provide access to a device for every child who needs one
- Provide internet access for every child who needs it, through rapidly expanding Get Help with Technology programme
- Work to remove data charges by “zero-rating” educational websites and where possible ensure school digital delivery is exempted from mobile and other data packages, to stop mobile data charges from pricing disadvantaged families out of education
- Redeploy officials to help identify and meet technical support needs
- Work with schools and pupils to deliver a guarantee of minimum contact time with teachers.
Locally the city MP and Central Southsea candidate have praised the community efforts of Kate Corps, a local resident who has helped dozens of Portsmouth families by arranging the donation of laptops, desktops and tablets to keep children learning during lockdown.
The Labour representatives have passed on their appreciation to Kate for her hard work and have vowed to continue to work together to end the digital divide in our communities.
Stephen Morgan MP, said: “The Government has had ten months since the start of the pandemic to tackle the digital divide in children’s learning, yet thousands of pupils in our area are still unable to access online education.
“Labour has been has calling for a plan to get every child online, but the Government has been too slow to respond. The Conservatives’ failure to close the digital divide in children’s learning risks failing a generation of young people.”
Charlotte Gerada, Central Southsea candidate, added: “I’ve seen for myself as a local community activist and school governor how the pandemic has shone a spotlight on inequality in our city.
“The lack of access to technology and a decent internet connection is just one example of that. That’s why I have been working closely with local residents like Kate Corps to ensure they have the equipment they need to keep kids learning from home.
“I know many residents will be disappointed that the Tories and Lib Dems worked together to vote down Labour’s positive plan to end digital poverty in our area once and for all”.
The city MP has consistency called on government to provide better provision of services, support and protection for local students, teachers and support staff throughout the pandemic, whilst the Central Southsea candidate has been working with local groups to help get tech to Portsmouth families.
The local Labour Group’s recent budget proposals found money to develop a new programme of community-led initiatives to tackle digital poverty in the city. Sadly the positive plan was voted down by Tories and Lib Dems working together.