Reliable broadband for children or risk harming education

A cross-party group of MPs and former ministers have argued that the government should urgently ensure that more than one million children have reliable internet access at home or risk irreparable harm to their education.

The proposal, which backs a call to equip 1.3 million children eligible for free school meals with a broadband connection and devices, has won the support of more than 40 leading voices on education, including Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former head of Ofsted, former Labour leader Tony Blair, Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, and Philip Harris, a multimillionaire Tory grandee and sponsor of 13 academies.

A bill that will be presented to Parliament this week, by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, says the coronavirus lockdown had ‘exposed the digital divide’, with about 700,000 children unable to complete any schoolwork because of a lack of internet at home.

This is in addition to the households without regular internet access who have been struggling to carry out essential tasks like pay bills, submit job applications and make universal credit inquiries since community centres and libraries closed in March.