PLAID Cymru’s Shadow Education Minister, Sian Gwenllian AM believes that after several weeks of the new school system, the “educational inequality caused by poverty” had become clear and warned that an “extended period” of home learning could “widen the attainment gap”.
In March, at the start of the pandemic, Plaid Cymru called for free individual laptops for school-age children who need it, and free internet to all homes with school-age children who currently do not have access to the internet. Ms Gwenllian believes that if this had been implemented immediately it would have made a difference.
Ms Gwenllian said it was “not too late” to implement Plaid Cymru’s suggestion of free equipment and called for clear leadership from Welsh Government to ensure that schools and local authorities across Wales could provide free equipment to the children who needed it and financial support for authorities who needed to urgently buy new laptops.
She said the pandemic should not mean children losing their education and that “no child should be left behind.”
Last week, the new Wales Anti-Poverty Alliance group wrote to the First Minister to seek financial support for parents who will find it difficult to provide the resources needed to do school work. Without this there is a risk of long-term effects to the future prospects of some of the poorest children in our communities.
Sian Gwenllian further commented,
“Teachers are endeavouring to be as flexible as possible, but such apparent inequalities means that it’s difficult to reach one consistent model of teaching that is suitable to all. Inevitably some will fall behind. Every community and home in Wales – rural or urban, north or south should have the same opportunities when facing this difficult situation.
“With no indication of when schools will reopen, and some speculating that they may not reopen until September, this prolonged period could see a widening of the attainment gap. Having no wi-fi or a suitable devices means children being locked out of their education.
“To that end, Plaid Cymru are calling for school age children who don’t have an individual laptop should get one for free for home learning. The internet should also be provided free for all homes with school age children who don’t currently have it.
“It’s not too late to implement Plaid’s suggestion of free equipment and I understand that some local authorities provide equipment and ‘dongles’ to those pupils who need it. Clear guidance is needed from the Welsh Government so that schools and local authorities across Wales provide equipment for children who need it and provide financial support to authorities who need to buy new laptops urgently.”