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Ipswich children face ‘digital divide’ during coronavirus crisis, warns headteacher

Pipers Vale Academy in Ipswich has allowed year-six pupils to borrow chromebooks during the coronavirus crisis. Picture: PARADIGM TRUST

Pipers Vale Academy in Ipswich has allowed year-six pupils to borrow chromebooks during the coronavirus crisis. Picture: PARADIGM TRUST

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Young people face a “digital divide” in Ipswich during the coronavirus crisis, a headteacher has warned – with some left without a computer for their home education.

Pipers Vale Academy in Ipswich, pictured here before the lockdown, is run by the Paradigm Trust. Picture: PARADIGM TRUSTPipers Vale Academy in Ipswich, pictured here before the lockdown, is run by the Paradigm Trust. Picture: PARADIGM TRUST

Many teachers have reverted to remote, online teaching after the pandemic forced schools to close to everyone except the children of key workers reliant on childcare.

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Yet Pipers Vale Academy, in Ipswich, has decided to make hard copies of home-schooling workbooks after recognising that many children simply did not have access to their own computer.

Some, for example, share laptops of PCs with siblings and parents – while others are totally reliant on mobile phones and 4G connections which are not ideal for schoolwork.

Pipers Vale Academy in Ipswich, pictured here before the lockdown, sends home hard copy learning packs to children. Picture: PARADIGM TRUSTPipers Vale Academy in Ipswich, pictured here before the lockdown, sends home hard copy learning packs to children. Picture: PARADIGM TRUST

The Paradigm Trust school decided to loan its limited number of chromebooks to year-six children, judging them to be most in need because of their impending transition to secondary school.

MORE: 5 ways teenagers can take care of their mental health during extended lockdown

“It’s particularly important that they’re high school-ready,” said Ms Morton.

In total, 85% of year-six pupils at the school have borrowed a chromebook for the coming weeks.

“A big issue we’re well aware of is a lack of wi-fi broadband and a lack of devices,” said Ms Morton.

“There’s a digital divide – lots of families don’t have access to online learning platforms.

“People have internet-enabled phones, but not all online platforms work on tablets and phones.

“We’re producing hard copy work packs because we know lots of children aren’t able to do that online work.

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“We don’t want children to fall behind.”

MORE: All of the coronavirus news in Suffolk

Some schools, such as the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook, have created online video lessons which pupils log in to at set times.

While Pipers Vale – which has 330 pupils – is planning an online assembly, Ms Morton says: “We couldn’t enforce logging in at set times.

“We’ve got to work together. It’s not my remit to dictate to parents when they do it.”

Teachers create workbooks bespoke to every child to match what they need to learn.

These are then printed out and hand-delivered to their homes.

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Ms Morton said parents and the wider community had been supportive of the school’s efforts throughout the crisis.

However, she said it was important for parents to realise teachers are contactable should they have any concerns or queries.

Teachers are also calling parents to ask them if their children have any problems with connectivity.

Meanwhile, Ipswich’s Copleston High School has reconfigured 120 laptops that are usually used within normal lessons and activities for students’ use during the coronavirus crisis.

The school is also benefitting from a donation of 12 chromebooks from the company Drax, each with a dongle containing three months of free internet data usage.

Principal Andy Green said the laptops have been given to young people who might have to share equipment with siblings or parents, making it harder to learn on their own.


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