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Assistant principal Trish Boyd, from Belfast Model School for Girls, said research carried out into how their pupils are coping with home schooling found that many are struggling without the devices they need for proper access to online studying

Assistant principal Trish Boyd, from Belfast Model School for Girls, said research carried out into how their pupils are coping with home schooling found that many are struggling without the devices they need for proper access to online studying

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Assistant principal Trish Boyd, from Belfast Model School for Girls, said research carried out into how their pupils are coping with home schooling found that many are struggling without the devices they need for proper access to online studying

Young people are using their mobile phones to access their work remotely as they do not have the devices they need for studying, it has emerged.

Assistant principal Trish Boyd, from Belfast Model School for Girls, said research carried out into how their pupils are coping with home schooling found that many are struggling without the devices they need for proper access to online studying.

"We have found that a substantial number of children either don't have a digital device or access to the internet, or even when there is a digital device there are multiple children in the house," she said, speaking on Good Morning Ulster.

"They're sharing a device and that becomes very difficult for the children to keep up with their learning even if all the facilities are there online.

"The children really do struggle sometimes when there's a digital divide issue."

That divide was highlighted further as it was revealed around 30% of the pupils currently learning remotely at Girls Model are accessing lessons by phone.

"If you think about the size of the screen, that alone causes so many issues, if you're trying to read documents that a teacher has sent out," said Ms Boyd.

"We do have a loan scheme and we have been sending out laptops and chromebooks, with 195 loaned out to date.

"We're hoping to have some more for next week. Just after mid-term we'll be sending out another batch to some children. We do realise some children are sitting working on a phone at home."

Last week a Co Down school revealed £40,000 of its budget had been spent on securing remote devices for pupils.

Though Stephen Taylor, principal at Blackwater Integrated College in Downpatrick, said that big strides had been made since last March, there were still major issues in getting work to pupils.

"By last September we had managed to lend out high number of devices," he said.

"We were finding that school work and specifically access to online learning was becoming a game of pass the parcel for families who had more than one child," he said.

"Children were having to wait their turn. The flow of work was disrupted."

Taking questions in the Assembly this week, the Education Minister said: "Certainly the feedback I would generally get, particularly from parents, has been that the level of remote learning assistance that is there during this lockdown has been much better, while I think all of us would accept that face to face teaching is the best opportunity."

At Wednesday's meeting of the Education Committee at Stormont, representatives from the NI Youth Forum vented their frustrations directly to MLAs.

Adam Crothers, from Bangor, a first-year student at Queen's University, Belfast told MLAs that, like many students, he has been living at home and says his experience of being a university student "has been a lonely one".

"Covid has diluted the university experience into a laptop," he told the committee.

And year 10 pupil and NI Youth Forum member Jack Dalzell added: "Our teachers are expecting us to produce the same amount of work and at the same quality as we would if we were still in school."

Belfast Telegraph


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