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Over a third of parents have children with no exclusive use of a device to work from home

New research from Teach First reveals the stark ongoing digital divide and long-term consequences of nearly a year of disrupted learning.

  • Almost three in five parents (59%) in England are worried about how prepared their children are to transition into the next year
  • 6% of parents have a child with no access to device at all for home schoolwork

New research from the education charity Teach First has found that over a third of parents (37%) say they have at least one child with no exclusive use of a device for schoolwork. The research found that 10% of parents say they have at least one child sharing with siblings, 13% sharing with other adults in the household, 11% sharing with both adults and siblings and 6% with no access to a device at all.

The disruption is of significant concern to parents across the country, with the research showing that almost three in five (59%) parents are worried about how prepared their children are to transition into the next academic year. 23% of parents are very worried.

It remains a positive sign of progress that 65% of parents in England say at least one of their children has exclusive use of a device for schoolwork. The government’s distribution of over 920,000 devices since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, together with efforts of charities, businesses and local initiatives, has allowed millions of young people to learn more effectively from home.

However, it remains the case that 6% of parents in England state they have at least one child with no access to a device for schoolwork, while 7% of parents in England have at least one child mainly accessing schoolwork via smartphones.

Of those parents who have at least one child currently attending school from home and who have a device to learn from, 10% said their child received the device in January 2021 – meaning that their child may have spent many months either during the school closures last year, or in many cases self-isolating in the Autumn term, without the ability to adequately study at home.

The research highlights the stark ongoing digital divide and the long-term consequences of nearly a year of disrupted learning. Serious concerns remain about lost learning for all pupils, as well as the widening of the attainment gap, with recent research suggesting that following the first lockdown, there is now a difference of seven months’ learning for both reading and maths between disadvantaged primary school pupils and their richer peers.

Teach First argues that while there is a pressing need to ensure every child has adequate access to a device to study from home during the most recent lockdown, we must also be looking at an extensive long-term recovery plan to address lost learning. This is particularly important for pupils and schools in disadvantaged communities whose education has been most severely disrupted by the pandemic.

The charity has already been working with large businesses in response to the pandemic including: Amazon, BNP Paribas, Deloitte, DHL UK Foundation, Drax, Capita Group, IG Group, the Swarovski Foundation and Vodafone to distribute devices and dongles to pupils and schools in disadvantaged communities.

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, said:

“Our latest research is a clear reminder of the stark digital divide that is present in our education system. The Government have taken important steps towards closing that gap and it’s fantastic to see big businesses step up to play their role. But the need remains great, with so many young people continuing to have inadequate access to learning at home.

“But while the immediate urgency is getting devices to the pupils who need them, we must also turn our attention to the future and the long-term consequences of nearly a year of disrupted learning. So we must direct additional funding and support to schools serving disadvantaged pupils, those who’ve been hardest hit, to help them rebuild and recover so that all children have the chance of a bright future in a post-COVID world.”

Jason Ashley, Headteacher at Redbridge Community School in Southampton, said:

“Over half of our students are from a disadvantaged background. While their wealthier peers have access to online devices, and a suitable space to learn at home, they’re sharing devices with multiple siblings and even parents in a crowded home environment. Only recently I learnt that one of our pupils is sharing one device between their entire family of five – meaning that everyday children in that family can’t learn. Simply put, they’re experiencing a digital divide in their own home and it’s grossly unfair.

“The damning truth is that any student in the school system will now be affected by COVID-19, but the immediate impact will be on those closest to exams. We absolutely need to be getting pupils the devices they need to study at home right now, but we also need to be turning our attention to the future to ensure this generation don’t lose their aspirations and ultimately get lost in the system.”


For interview, comment or case study requests, contact the Teach First media team on or call 0203 841 8483.


Notes to Editor

Research was conducted by YouGov, with full results available on request.

Total sample size was 6796 adults, of which 1257 have children ages 5 to 18. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 21st January 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB Parents of children ages 5 to 18.

All figures used in the press release are for England only, not Great Britain.

Devices refer to laptops, desktop computers and tablets only – smartphones are not counted as part of this figure.

About Teach First

Teach First is an education charity with a mission to build a fair education for all. Through a range of school leadership programmes the charity supports teachers, leaders and schools facing the biggest challenges, serving the most disadvantaged communities.

The charity has now recruited over 18,000 teachers and leaders, has over 85 head teachers in their alumni and has supported over a million pupils.

Those on the Training Programme commit to a minimum of two years at their partner school, where they teach a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) timetable; more than half stay on for a third year. Over 62% of all the teachers who’ve completed training since 2003 are currently teaching. The charity supports whole leadership teams through Leading Together. Develops individuals to become effective leaders through Middle Leader, Senior Leader and Headship programmes that include a National Professional Qualification. And provides Career Leader training to develop a long-term, school-wide careers strategy to improve student opportunities after school.

Teach First currently operates in Wales and in all regions across England: London, West Midlands, East Midlands, Yorkshire the Humber, North West, North East, South East, South Coast, South West and the East of England.

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