23 Sep 2021

Students without devices missing out on crucial learning: 'It's just a worrying situation'

6:22 pm on 23 September 2021

The principal of an Auckland primary school says not all families have been able to afford keeping data on their phones for students to engage with learning this lockdown.

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Photo: Unsplash / Giovanni Gagliardi

New research out from the Education Review Office has found that before the August lockdown, nearly one in five low decile students didn't have a device at home. For students at high decile schools, it was just one in 20.

At Finlayson Park Primary School, a decile 1 school in Manurewa, Auckland, the school's supply of resources isn't enough to stretch to every student.

The lockdown has had an impact of 80 percent of students at Finlayson Park School in "a really sad situational way", says principal Shirley Maihi.

Of 1100 students, only six are back at school in level 3.

Maihi said teachers are very concerned about the large number of students they haven't been able to engage with.

"It's just a worrying situation to think how many children are not going to have that very important [learning], especially the early learning stage, learning to read, write and do maths - there's a big gap in those student's learning."

Many Māori and Pacific families at the school don't have a device at home, Maihi says.

For families that do, Maihi says students are having to share with other family members.

"Normally it is given to the older students to use and so the littlies miss out."

It's crucial families have a decent number of devices available in the home and aren't having to rely on data on their phones, she said.

"We're just finding that our children started to engage quite well at the beginning of the lockdown and two weeks into the lockdown, more drop off of numbers and I think it's because phone data is used, parents don't have money to top up and it's just an ongoing cycle for these families."

"We have a very long lag of learning for our students unfortunately. We wouldn't be in the same boat as secondary schools with exams but even our assessment methods are going to have to change drastically because we've had a third of the year in lockdown."

The picture is very different across the city in Epsom, where decile 9 Auckland Grammar School has offered devices and wifi modems to every student who needs it.

Headmaster Tim O'Connor says his focus is on senior students as they prepare for external exams.

Of the 1100 senior students, 70 percent sit Cambridge exams which begin on 4 October.

Internal exams start today and are now online.

These are essential because if the external exams don't go ahead under alert level 3 or 4, the marks from these exams are intergral, he said.

How to help:

* Internet NZ has some suggestions for helping kids get devices

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