A new survey, carried out by EIS FELA and supported by the National Union of Students (NUS), has confirmed that college students in more deprived areas are facing greater barriers to their learning during the COVID-19 shutdown than students in the least deprived areas.
Issues such as lack of ICT facilities and an absence of access to broadband are potentially placing many students are a significant disadvantage compared to their peers.
While nearly all respondents had access to at least one internet-ready device at home, only 58% had exclusive access to devices such as laptops or desktop computers to allow them to study or complete coursework. Around 10% of respondents indicated they did not have access to broadband internet at home.
Commenting on the findings, EIS-FELA President for 2019-2020 Pam Currie said, "This survey confirms that the most disadvantaged college students are suffering the greatest impact as a result of the COVID-19 crisis."
"While the educational experience of all students will be affected to some extent, it is those students living in the most disadvantaged areas who are experiencing the most negative impact. This has the potential to exacerbate the disadvantage that students from more deprived areas will experience during the lockdown."
The survey found that the major issues affecting learners' ability to engage with education during the COVID-19 crisis were combinations of lack of access to equipment (not only ICT but specialist material required for their courses); caring responsibilities (particularly learners with dependent children); health (including mental health) and changes to their paid employment (including increased demands on key workers).
SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) analysis on a sub-sample of 1000 learners indicated that SIMD 1 learners were less likely to have broadband, less likely to have exclusive use of a device or access to any device other than a smartphone and were significantly more likely to have caring responsibilities than those in SIMD 8, 9 and 10 areas.
Over 1800 students at 15 colleges took part in the survey.