During lockdown, a number of schools reported that many pupils did not have a digital device and/or connectivity to access online learning from home.
Other schools reported that pupils lacked suitable devices or had restricted access due to sharing devices with family members and the council launched a survey of all schools to help it work out ways to prevent digital inequality and its impact on pupils’ education.
The council has responded by supporting schools to access various Department for Education (DfE) schemes, creating a device lending scheme to schools who have exhausted their stock, and seeking donations from telecoms companies to support connectivity. BT has donated 100 BT hotspot devices, while the national Vodafone scheme is also being promoted to schools.
Councillors from Bushbury North, East Park, Ettingshall, Fallings Park, Graiseley and Oxley, have also donated ward funds to buy MiFi (mobile broadband routers) and 4G sim cards to enable children to get online if they need to isolate during the pandemic.
In addition, the Council’s School Improvement Team is working with schools and local learning technology services to pilot live online remote learning; undertaking continuous professional development to raise awareness, signpost and support schools to access digital resources; and supporting school leaders around quality and access to remote learning programmes.
City of Wolverhampton Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources, Councillor Louise Miles, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity, however those without digital access or skills are being left behind.
“City of Wolverhampton Council is committed to digital inclusion. It is fundamental, not a ‘nice to have’ – that is why we have ensured that digital is an integral part of our Relighting Our City recovery commitment.
“Digital is the primary means of connection and access to essential services and digital skills are crucial for education, economic resilience and growth, providing a gateway to jobs, progression, social inclusion and cohesion.”
Wolverhampton’s Councillor Digital Innovation Champion, Councillor Beverley Momenabadi, added: “I cannot shout loud enough about the importance of providing this support to schools across the city.
“It is crucial all pupils have access to devices and connectivity to get online and further their education to improve their life chances.
“We fully recognise how critical and life changing connectivity can be to every child in Wolverhampton.”