MP Siobhain McDonagh is calling on Boris Johnson to address the digital divide that could leave disadvantaged children 'even further' behind their classmates when they return to school.

Siobhain McDonagh has today ( January 4), written a letter to the Prime Minister to address the ongoing issue regarding the lack of remote learning equipment and accessibility for children. 

The enclosed letter – co-signed by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Education Secretaries, charities, unions and current MPs – is calling on the Government to immediately ensure that every child away from school has the data and device that they need to log in and learn from home. 

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Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh, said Ofcom estimates that between 1.14 million and 1.78 million children in the UK (9%) do not have home access to a laptop, desktop, or tablet and that more than 880,000 children live in a household with only a mobile internet connection.

Data from the Office for National Statistics says only 51% of households earning between £6,000 and £10,000 have internet access, the MP said.

Ms McDonagh said: "The internet has been a lifeline through the lockdowns, keeping us connected at a time when we have been forced apart. 

But children on the wrong side of the digital divide have neither the data nor the devices to log in from home when their schools close. 

"In a country with free state education, no child’s education should be dependent on their internet connection."

The letter says: "We write to you following the news that school will be closed for millions of pupils for the opening weeks of the new term.

"At the time of writing, all secondary school pupils in England and more than one million primary school pupils will be reliant on remote learning to continue their education.

"In October, the law changed to require teachers to provide remote education to pupils who are unable to attend school because of Covid-19.

"So, whilst we welcome the remote education support offered to schools by the Government, the number of devices pledged falls far short of the number required.

Furthermore, a device is only effective for remote learning if the pupil can access the internet at home, with 880,000 children living in a household with only a mobile internet connection, in addition to those children on the wrong side of the digital divide with no connection at all.

"These pupils were likely to be behind their peers even before the pandemic."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "As the Prime Minister has said, children's education has consistently been a national priority, which is why we want classrooms to reopen wherever possible in the new term. It is also vital that where public health advice means they can't be, we have measures in place to prevent them from falling behind.

"We have scaled up our devices scheme, alongside our tutoring offer to reach as many children and young people as possible.

"More than one million laptops and tablets have been purchased for disadvantaged young people through this pandemic, supporting schools and students to ensure remote education is as strong as it can be."