On Tuesday 21st July, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) hosted a virtual roundtable bringing together education leaders from across the sector, focusing on the digital divide in education and the case for enabling a blended learning approach for all pupils and teachers.
Following the roundtable, we formed a summary paper and the final section on ‘Supporting schools to adapt’ includes possible next steps and recommendations outlined by participants.
The impact of the pandemic on education in the UK has been profound and far-reaching. The closure of schools, colleges and nurseries has forced pupils and teachers to operate remotely in circumstances for which few had prepared. The effects of these closures have been significant: pupils have received fewer learning hours, a narrowed curriculum and been reliant on access to devices and the internet at home. 
School closures have also laid bare the stark variation between pupils’ home-learning environments. Poorer pupils are likely to have more limited device and internet access and are less likely to have home environments conducive to learning.  
The government has taken some steps to address the digital divide, with announcements of 200,000 laptops to be distributed to pupils that need them and six-month internet passes for pupils without consistent access. Eligible groups include care leavers, disadvantaged year 10 pupils and children and young people aged 0-19 with a social worker (only secondary school pupils with a social worker are eligible for the internet passes). While this is a step in the right direction, the scale of the impact on pupils, families and teachers presents an opportunity to build a blended learning approach for the long-term.
The roundtable considered what more we can do to level the playing field and enable learners to learn and teachers to teach in this new context.
The discussion was divided into four sessions:
- Learning during lockdown – focused on academic research undertaken on learning and teaching experiences during the period of school closures
- England- what has been working and not working? – focused on school leaders’ key reflections from the adjustment to full remote learning
- International experiences – focused on how other countries have adapted to remote learning and supported more equal access for pupils
- Supporting schools to adapt – focused on how we can ensure equity of access to education in all environments, creating more seamless transitions from the classroom to the home.
We are grateful to all participants for their contributions.
A full copy of the summary paper, Addressing the digital divide in education Enabling a blended learning approach for all pupils and teachers, can be found here.
 https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2020/jun/children-doing-25-hours-schoolwork-day-average  https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14848  https://www.suttontrust.com/our-research/covid-19-and-social-mobility-impact-brief/  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/laptops-tablets-and-4g-wireless-routers-provided-during-coronavirus-covid-19