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Harefield Academy feels the impact of digital divide


A local secondary school has seen some pupils forced to use their parents’ iPhones to access online learning materials, the IKB Insider has heard.

Councillor Peter Curling, Leader of the Labour Group in Hillingdon and Harefield Academy board of governors member, said, “Harefield is a deprived area with lots of families living in very challenging circumstances. I do worry about the digital divide; the council has tried its best to bridge that gap, but it worries me a lot. Throughout the age range, some students are struggling to use their parents’ iPhones to access learning materials.”

A 2019 Ward Report on Harefield estimated that 13.3% of Harefield households are classed as income deprived, and the digital divide has led to some students from these households having their education heavily impacted by a lack of access to online classes and learning materials.

Paula Monaghan, Assistant Head for Inclusion at Harefield Academy, told the IKB Insider, “I take my hat off to the kids trying to do work sheets at home on an iPhone. One of the biggest issues families face is that their broadband isn’t good enough to download and stream, especially if the parents are working from home or there is more than one child in the family.”

“It must be incredibly difficult. When you impact the responsibility of keeping kids engaged on top of financial worries, that’s a big burden to carry.”

Councillor Peter Curling, a governor of Harefield Academy

Ms Monaghan went on to say that while not all the problems have been solved, they have been “incredibly blessed” after government schemes and the local community have provided some families with devices that can access essential online learning materials.

At a recent Council budget meeting Councillor Susan O’Brien, Cabinet Member for Families, Education and Wellbeing, addressed the issue. She said that the Council “will continue to assist and work with schools and families to ensure that they have support to access digital devices for remote learning and accelerated learning.”

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