Oldham parents discuss the digital divide

The past year has been incredibly challenging, lockdown and school closures have meant that many families have had to balance homeschooling with working from home, which has also highlighted the digital divide.

Oldham’s Parent Power* group campaigned to tackle this issue that affected so many of our families. By partnering with Trinity College we were able to secure funding for laptops. This has enabled parents to engage in more virtual meetings, podcast sessions and most importantly support their children with homeschooling during the most recent lockdown.

Parents from Parent Power Oldham, talk about their experiences –

Jodie Clough:

There has been a digital divide between families who have the resources needed to be educated in this way and families that do not. In order to learn online, students have needed access to: laptops, computers, and tablets as well as a strong internet connection to deal with being logged in for the entire school day every weekday. Families like mine only have one PC computer and with 2 children and 2 adults in the home all working from home, it was problematic from the beginning as we all needed to share one device. It was near impossible to maintain any sort of routine that we were all comfortable with and used to.

It wasn’t just education that suffered, all our usual appointments and after-school activities were transferred online. For example, my son’s weekly guitar lesson was conducted via Viber, an online video calling app. Our monthly parent power meetings were moved to zoom and it became apparent quite quickly that some families didn’t have the technology to allow them to join the meeting and those that did found it difficult to get to grips with the new virtual way of working. Stress levels were high and our mental health was starting to struggle as we couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As the year 2020 progressed to Christmas I was informed by Najma (Lead of Parent Power Oldham) that funding had been approved for laptops for families through Trinity College and by January 2021 it was delivered to our home. It has been a huge help in so many different ways by having 2 devices in the home. Each child now has their own device with a structured learning routine which is no longer impacted by the lack of technology in our home.

As a family, we are much happier as we have more freedom rather than all depending on one PC in our dining room which is the busiest room of the house so it was easy to be distracted by daily life going on around us. They could work in any room of the house and when the British weather allowed them even get some fresh air in the garden.
Once again thank you to the whole team behind Parent Power, especially Najma Khan and Trinity College.

Raheila Koser:

When schools started remote learning, I as a mother of 5 children really struggled. Even though, we have a computer and an iPad we were still low on devices that our children could use for their online learning.

Also being a PGCE student myself, I also needed access to a device, as a PGCE is a very intense course requiring me to be submitting assignments online, regularly.

My 14-year-old son ended up having to use my mobile phone to access his learning as the computer and iPad were being used by my two teenage daughters. This caused problems such as my son not being able to concentrate fully as there were messages and calls coming through on my phone, which I needed to answer!

Also, I was having to wait until the evening to complete the online learning activities set for my youngest two primary school-aged children as there were no devices free to use during the day. I was then doing my own assignment after putting them all to bed which was leaving me exhausted and stressed out.

So you can imagine the relief I felt when I was given a laptop by Cambridge University through Parent Power! It meant my son could concentrate better on his learning without the interruption from phone calls and messages and I could have access to my own phone during the day.

I am very grateful to Cambridge University and Parent Power for making my life a little easier during these very challenging times.

I am very much looking forward to the children going back to school on the 8th of March so I can have some much-needed peace and quiet for a few hours during the day! I’m sure many parents are feeling the same way!

You can hear more from parents through the Parent Power Podcast. By parents, for parents: 

Spotify – Podcast

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*Oldham Parent Power is a collaborative project between Oldham Opportunity Area, Greater Manchester Higher, Citizens UK, the Women’s Chai Project (Oldham), and Trinity College that works with local parents of high achieving students to increase their access and awareness of higher education.

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