28/10/2020

The Research Institute for Social Mobility says "end the digital divide” with a Virtual Learning Co-ordinator in every school

The Research Institute for Social Mobility (RISE) think tank, part funded by the University of Bolton, has called on the government to “remove digital poverty” and appoint a new ‘Virtual Learning Co-ordinator’ in every school.

The report from the leading social mobility and education think tank, entitled COVID-19, Leading Virtual Learning in Schools and Colleges has been published by Professor Sonia Blandford, who sits on the board.


Evidence from the Lloyds Bank Group suggests that 12 per cent of those aged between 11 and 18, a total of 700,000 children, reported having no access at home to a computer or tablet.

And according to digital inclusion charity, The Good Things Foundation, almost a quarter of 5-15 year olds in the poorest households do not have access to both a laptop, desktop or tablet and broadband.


The report clarifies that schools should create a Virtual Learning Coordinator (VLC) position to help to fix this digital divide.

The VLC would sit within each school’s senior leadership team (SLT) and would:

  1. Provide or source digital training and professional development for all teachers and learning support assistants to enable all professionals to have the expertise needed for virtual teaching.
  2. Support virtual communication between parents, teachers, and children, that would enable all teachers to check children are engaging with online teaching.
  3. Link online and face-to-face teaching under one new management structure so the development of digital competencies is linked to improved learning.

Professor Blandford, who leads RISE’s social mobility policy development and is a visiting professor of education at the UCL Institute of Education, said: “As much of the country heads into a new set of restrictions due to Covid-19, it is vital that schools grapple with this now.

“Online and blended learning is going to become a routine part of our education system and unless schools rapidly reform and future proof themselves, we will let a generation of children down.

“A Virtual Learning Coordinator in every school will oversee the digital training of staff, investment in technology, provide that vital link between children, parents and teachers so we can be sure students are engaging with online learning, to ensure a smooth transition between the classroom and the tablet and to check that every child has access to the relevant technology when they can’t be in the classroom.”

Andrea Jenkyns MP, Director and Head of Centre at RISE, said: “We set up RISE to help the government realise its aim of levelling up, because as the Prime Minister knows, there is as much skill, talent and genius in the North as there is anywhere else in the country. 

“RISE looks forward to working with schools to end the digital divide and make sure all students, wherever in the country they come from, have the opportunity to make the most of their education and talents.”

The think tank is co-chaired by Lord David Willetts, the former universities minister, and Simon Blagden CBE, Fujitsu’s non-executive Chairman, and will contribute to shaping the government’s levelling up agenda and drive to boost social mobility.

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Part of the University of Bolton Group

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