“We must give every child an equal chance by tackling digital poverty,” says Cllr Michael Savage.
SDLP Councillor Michael Savage has tabled a motion aimed at tackling digital poverty and ensuring every child in the North has equal access to laptops, devices and affordable broadband throughout their education.
The Newry councillor said: “Every child has the right equality in education as blended learning looks likely to be with us for some time to come and that is why I have brought a Digital Poverty Motion to Council which will be heard at this month’s SP&R Meeting calling on the Executive to take action to ensure ALL Children get access to a laptop or device and adequate and affordable broadband.
“I am aware that some families are struggling to meet the demands that blended learning is placing on their children as a consequence of the Pandemic due to lack of devices due to cost or poor or unaffordable broadband access and parents are deeply concerned about the mental distress this is causing their children.
“We have a duty to ensure that no child is disadvantaged in their education as we come through and out of this Pandemic.
“I hope that my fellow Councillors will see the merits in this Motion and give it their full support so that we send a strong message to the Education Minister and the Executive that we demand that the resources are put behind our children to ensure they have fair access to a quality education and that no child is left behind.
“This is also an opportunity to let parents know that we are with them on this issue.”
The Motion reads: “This Council acknowledges that blended learning is likely to be with us for some time to come due to the graduated easing of restrictions relating to the Pandemic.
“Council recognises that Digital Poverty needs to be urgently addressed across our district and throughout the North in order to tackle growing inequalities in education with children in many families unable to access online learning due to lack of computers in the home and lack of access to adequate broadband.
“Council agrees to set up a Working Group to work with local schools, community groups, youth organisations and sports clubs to devise a community-based short-term initiative to assist families to gain access to online learning and adequate broadband.
“Council calls for a Digital Poverty Task Force to be set up within the NI Executive to ensure that no child loses out in their education due to lack of access to a computer or broadband and requests that the Council Chief Executive writes to the Education Minister and the Executive Office outlining the Council’s call for a Digital Poverty Taskforce to be established”.