The UK’s #DigitalDivide narrowed during the coronavirus pandemic, @Ofcom research suggests 

The proportion of homes without internet access appears to have fallen from 11% in March 2020, when the UK entered lockdown, to 6% of homes in March this year.

Adults with previously limited digital skills have embraced online shopping, digital banking and video calling friends and family – while younger people acted as IT support, helping older or less digitally-confident friends and relatives get connected.

Minority remain digitally excluded

Despite many more people taking a leap of faith into the online world, for the 6% of households who remain offline, our research finds that digital exclusion during lockdown is likely to be more disempowering than ever.

Groups least likely to have home internet access are those aged 65+, lower income households, and the most financially vulnerable. Almost half of adults who remain offline say they find the internet too complicated, or it holds no interest for them. Meanwhile, for more than a third of people a lack of equipment is a barrier.

However, six in ten of those who don’t use the internet at home say they have asked someone to do something for them online in the past year. Among these ‘proxy users’, the most common need was help in buying something.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Strategy and Research Group Director, said:

"For many people, lockdown will leave a lasting legacy of improved online access and better digital understanding. But for a significant minority of adults and children, it’s only served to intensify the digital divide.

"We’ll continue to work with Government and other partner organisations to promote digital literacy and ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds are empowered to share in the benefits of the internet."

One in five children did not have consistent access to a suitable device for their online home learning

While our research on parents and children found nearly all children of school age had online access in the home, 4% relied solely on mobile internet access during the pandemic – with 2% only able to get online using a smartphone. School-aged children from the most financially vulnerable homes (5%) were more likely than those in the least financially vulnerable households (2%) to have mobile-only access.

Additionally, around one in five children did not have consistent access to a suitable device for their online home learning. This increased to a quarter of children from households classed as most financially vulnerable.

Most children with intermittent access had to share a device to manage home-schooling. For 3% of schoolchildren, the lack of access to a device prevented them from doing any schoolwork at all.

Online escapism during pandemic…

Online activities provided a welcome distraction for many of us during lockdown, with the pandemic accelerating our adoption of digital services.

Additional data suggests that the time children spent watching non-broadcast content (such as streamed content or online video) on their TV each week greatly increased last year – from 7 hours 49 minutes in 2019, to 11 hours 19 minutes– overtaking traditional broadcast viewing for the very first time (6 hours 54 minutes).

Gaming also grew in popularity among adults. More than half of adults played games on a device such as a smartphone, games console or PC, with a third of adults playing online, with or against other people.

Seven in ten 5- to 15-year-olds played games online in 2020, with boys in particular using this as a way to connect with their friends. A quarter of pre-schoolers aged 3-4 were also online gaming in 2020 – with their parents claiming that nearly half of them now own their own tablet and nearly one in 20 their own smartphone.

…but screen time is harder to control

With children staying home from school and leisure or sporting activities cancelled, many parents admitted finding it more difficult to control their children’s screen time during the past year. This was the case for 40% of parents of 5-15 year-olds, and 30% of parents of pre-schoolers. Up to half of parents also said they had to relax their approach to their children’s online use as a result of lockdown restrictions.

But parents also recognised the value of the internet during lockdown. More than six in 10 thought it helped their child to learn a new skill, while about half credited the internet with helping their child to build or maintain friendships – an increase since 2019.

Children with mental or physical conditions appear more at risk online

Just over half of 12-15s had a negative online experience of some sort last year, higher than in 2019 (41%) – and possibly as a result of children spending more time online.

New analysis this year showed that children with a physical or mental condition that impacts or limits their daily lives were more likely to have had a negative interaction online. For example, they were more likely to be contacted online by a stranger who wanted to be their friends (45% vs. 27% of those without a condition), and to feel pressured to send photos or other personal information to someone (14% vs. 4% of children without a condition).

Too many students are still unable to learn online

One in five children (17%) did not have consistent access to a suitable device for their online home-learning. This increased to 27% of children from households classed as most financially vulnerable. While nearly all children had online access in the home, 4% relied solely on mobile internet access during the pandemic.

Oak National Academy, the nation’s online classroom, has welcomed new research from Ofcom which shows too many pupils are still unable to learn online, despite an overall rise in the number of households using the internet since the pandemic struck.

Oak successfully campaigned to have its online classroom zero-rated for this academic year so users can access content without incurring data costs. However the Ofcom report shows there are still significant challenges in accessing virtual learning for many families.

Matt Hood, Principal of Oak National Academy, said:

“It is clearly good news that more homes have better access to the internet and online learning, but there are still too many children who are at risk of being locked out of learning. The fact that one in four children from the most deprived households do not have consistent access to a device goes to show how much work we still need to do to provide fair access to education for all. It is fundamentally wrong that in 2021 we have digital haves and have-nots. It’s high time everyone from policy makers to telecoms firms redouble their efforts to end the digital divide.” 

Simon Carter, Director at RM:

“OFCOM’s annual snapshot report just reinforces how critical technology has become in the education of our children – if the pandemic has made one thing abundantly clear it is that technology in education should not be considered a luxury, but a necessity. It’s technology that provides a hybrid approach to teaching – where online and classroom learning are combined, ensuring pupils still receive the same high quality of teaching in the event that school sites have to close.

“In fact, at RM we recently reported that both parents (78%) and teachers (61%) believe that technology in schools is improving learning outcomes for their children. As a result, remote learning can no longer be a temporary measure; not only was it a lifeline during lockdown but it also empowers pupils and staff to learn and teach from home, supporting a range of hard and soft digital skills, such as creativity, collaboration, innovation, and research and information fluency online. Remote training is also increasingly becoming the most common way of imparting skills in this country.

“Teachers are now better prepared to adapt to changes in the education sector, and it’s crucial that they bring that preparation into the classroom; from digital assessments to keeping in touch with pupils via Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and even creating new and digital-friendly teaching materials. As we continue to enter this ‘new normal’, and young people are increasingly called upon to help bridge the growing digital skills gaps in many industries, it’s important that they are equipped with the right resources and technologies to do so, ensuring that they can continue to learn and develop in spite of any future disruptions.”

You may also be interested in these articles:

End to end learner journeys – from initial to end-point assessments - #FutureOfAssessment Episode 4

Sponsored Video

Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Solvendis added a new event 14 hours

Understanding Apprenticeship Funding (Zoom Conferencing)

The seminar format encourages delegate participation and aims to ensure that attendees get reliable guidance and advice in the planning of their...

  • Wednesday, 08 December 2021 10:00 AM
  • Zoom Conferencing
Solvendis added a new event 14 hours

Designated Safeguarding Lead Training (Zoom Conferencing)

A provider’s Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) plays a critical role in its approach to safeguarding its learners, training its staff, providing...

  • Friday, 10 December 2021 10:00 AM
  • Zoom Conferencing
Solvendis added a new event 14 hours

Effective Governance in Post-16 Training (Zoom Conferencing)

Over the course of the last few years, ineffective governance has been one of the most commonly occurring Ofsted criticisms of providers deemed to...

  • Monday, 06 December 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online, National

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page