The Member of the Senedd for the Rhondda has called on the Labour Government to ensure that pupils have access to the internet as lockdown continues.
Leanne Wood MS has said it is vital that every child in Wales has a device and internet access if they are not to fall behind their peers. Despite it being nearly one year since the first lockdown, Leanne is being contacted by parents and carers who don’t have the means of ensuring children can participate in live lessons.
This week a secondary school teacher in the Rhondda contacted Leanne to say that one of their pupils told them she was unable to join future live lessons as she had “spent all her Christmas money on data.”
Leanne has written to the First Minister to call for free unlimited data to be provided to all pupils in Wales that need it. In England, BT has teamed up with the Department of Education to ensure families and carers supporting children without internet access will get unlimited data until the end the end of the academic year.
Leanne called on the First Minister to do the same. In a letter sent earlier this month she wrote: ‘Given that a full lockdown will be lasting for weeks (and potentially months), I am concerned about the digital divide that exists in Wales; in both access to broadband and access to devices.
‘I know that your government has allocated money to provide devices to some households – and that charities have done some great work in this area – but nearly 12 months after the first lockdown, I am still coming across people in the Rhondda without access to devices and internet in their homes.
‘I have no doubt this is the case across Wales. This is unfair and will only serve to exacerbate the link between poor attainment and poverty in Wales.
‘I urge you to do all you can to ensure that children in poverty in our country have the same opportunities as children in poverty in England from the end of January. Can you urgently establish talks to ensure a ‘Lockdown Learning’ style scheme is up and running in Wales as soon as possible? I also look forward to hearing how you will identify homes that are still without access to devices and your plans to remedy this.’
Afterwards, Leanne said: “It is heart breaking to hear that children are still going without access to both devices and the internet. Unless something is done soon, these children will be left behind and that is not fair.
“Kids should not be having to spend their Christmas money on extra data to keep up with their classmates like in the example that was brought to my attention this week. Enough is enough. We need swift action from this Labour Government on this matter.”