Statement: Digital exclusion’s impact on online learning

Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson said:

“As we begin to emerge slowly from the pandemic, I remain concerned for those older children still learning at home as support for online learning continues to be inconsistent across the country. I have repeatedly called for a national approach by the Scottish Government who are ultimately responsible to ensure that all children can realise their rights to education. Digital access also plays an important role in socialising with friends and family which is essential for development, especially when Covid restrictions has severely limited young people’s social contact. A national approach is needed, backed up by national guidance and support for schools and teachers. Inconsistent delivery of IT to children and young people who need it to learn continues to widen the attainment gap between rich and poor and can lead to poor mental health. In the first lockdown children from higher income families were able to spend more time on school work at home with more access to online devices.

“While it is hugely positive news that most younger children are returning to school, we must not forget to support those who remain learning at home, even for part of the time. The Scottish Government must ensure that every child that needs a device to access education, has one and that they are able to access meaningful support for education online.”


When people create services for you to use they often assume that everyone has access to the internet all the time. If someone doesn’t, they may find it more difficult – or even impossible – to access a service, and when that happens we say they are digitally excluded. For example, a child without home internet access would be digitally excluded if they were asked to research a topic online.

Two common ways in which Scotland’s children and young people are digitally excluded are:

  • because of the cost of internet and devices used to access the internet
  • because of the poor availability of broadband in many rural parts of the country, especially in the Highlands and Islands.
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