Scott: Schools IT investment necessary to overcome digital frontier

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP today called on the Scottish Government and local authorities to boost connectivity in schools and support disadvantaged pupils after new research suggested that dramatic disparities exist between schools across the country.

A series of Freedom of Information requests by the Scottish Liberal Democrats have revealed: 

  • While all schools in Scotland now have some form of internet access, this varies dramatically in quality with 100% of primary schools in Aberdeenshire having access to superfast broadband (>24mbps) compared to just 2% of primary schools in the Highlands.
  • There are huge disparities between the amounts local authorities have spent on IT equipment in schools and l local authority spending in this area halved between 2013 and 2016. 
  • Only four local authorities were able to provide any information on the number of children who don’t have access to computer equipment at home, despite the Scottish Government stating that this contributes to educational inequalities. 

Commenting Mr Scott said: 

“All schools in Scotland have some form of connectivity but we are still seeing massive disparities between local authorities. For example, while some primary schools have access to good internet connections, in many areas they have been left behind.

“Meanwhile, only four local authorities were able to respond to questions on the number of children identified as not having access to computer equipment at home. It calls into question the credibility of the Scottish Government’s Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy which places an emphasis on using digital technology in education.

“Similarly while there are always going to be peaks and troughs, the news that the amount spent on school’s IT equipment has almost halved in the past three years raises concerns. 

“Those who do not have access to technology at home or who have to deal with snail-like speeds at school could be held back. We need to provide the means for all pupils to overcome digital frontiers. Scottish firms have long projected shortages in computer science and other technology-based industries. These figures highlight how important it is to ensure that young people are computer-literate and prepared for the 21st century.

 “As well as supporting the extension of superfast broadband to every corner of Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats’ Penny for Education would raise £500 million to transform Scottish education. Our pupil premium would deliver extra resources and support for every child from a disadvantaged background and could be used to provide essential IT equipment should teachers judge this to be the right thing for a child’s learning.”

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