Digital Exclusion (Glasgow Schools)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

1. To ask the Scottish Government what analysis it has carried out of the number of school pupils in Glasgow experiencing digital exclusion. (S5O-05138)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

T he Scottish Government worked with local authorities through the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers, and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland to establish the scale of need across Scotland. Councils and schools know their learners and families best. Therefore, funding of £25 million was allocated, via a formula that is based on deprivation and rurality, for them to address local need.

Glasgow City Council received £3.1 million, through which it has distributed 7,240 devices and 4,225 connectivity packages to learners. The council has received an additional £5.8 million to further support remote learning, which can be used flexibly to deliver additional devices or connectivity where need still exists.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

It was revealed at a recent meeting of Glasgow City Council’s education committee that more than one third of primary 1 to 6 pupils in Glasgow were identified as needing a digital device for home learning and still do not have access to one. Digital exclusion among disadvantaged children and young people was already a significant problem before lockdown and remote learning, and the pandemic has compounded that. I am sure that the cabinet secretary will agree that it is entirely unacceptable that, one year after lockdown, children still do not have access to the devices that they need in order to learn. The devices are not a bonus; they are central to their learning.

What further action can the Government take to address digital exclusion and ensure that young people, including the 35 per cent of Glasgow primary school children who have been identified, do not fall through the net? How will the Scottish Government focus attention more broadly on that most vulnerable group of young people, whose life chances have clearly been disproportionately affected by the Covid crisis?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I fundamentally agree with the direction of Johann Lamont’s question. I believe that we are now in an era when use of a digital device is central to the effective participation of children and young people in education. The Government has taken a number of significant steps to enhance the propositions that have already been put in place by local authorities.

Glasgow City Council has a strong record on provision of devices to young people in its education system. Some other local authorities—for example, Scottish Borders Council—have opted to provide devices to all pupils.

One of the priorities that the Government has pursued throughout the pandemic has been to address the digital divide, and it has done so through the work that I recounted in my earlier answer and through the connecting Scotland programme, which has been taken forward by my Cabinet colleague Aileen Campbell, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government. It remains a significant priority for the Government, and we will pursue it actively, should this Government be re-elected in May.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We have a supplementary question from Clare Adamson.

Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

I beg your pardon: I had pressed the button for my own question later.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I would have thought that you would know by now. [