Digital Divide could take social mobility back a decade

We face a real risk that social mobility will lose the last ten years of progress following the COVID-19 pandemic. Those at greatest risk of reduced life chances are disadvantaged students like the ones Villiers supports.
students learning
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A significant number of school students are lacking regular access to suitable technology to undertake their schooling which has all moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April the Government announced a support package for some students, focused on students who are Care leavers, Children with a social worker and Children in Year 10.

Current policy stipulates that schools must use the budget that is already allocated to their 16-19 Bursary Fund to support students.

Where that fund is already fully committed, settings will need to write a business case to the Education and Skills Funding Agency for additional funds. Although there is support there, it is not as easy to access as it is for pre-16 students.

We have now been in lockdown for 6 weeks, and there is already an impact on attainment for those unable to access on-line learning. It will already be difficult for those students to catch up, and despite government policy there aren’t robust processes in place for getting tech to many of them and in particular those in post 16 education.

Charities, schools, Universities and others are moving provision online to support disadvantaged students to succeed and progress in the way they have capability to do. Although the online provision to support students is largely available, the students who could benefit most are unable to access it. We have a responsibility to not only provide the content that gives young people the best chance of success, but we also need to provide the means for students to access it, and the support for them to engage with it effectively.

At Villiers we have been working with disadvantaged young people for more than a century to help them develop the curiosity, tenacity and creativity to make the most of opportunities available to them. This experience has allowed us to quickly become one of the sector leaders in supporting students to effectively engage in on-line education.

Charities and Partners

Villiers is working in close partnership with The University of Bath and partners to address the issues. Together we can provide a single response and support more students.

The charities and partners currently working with us are:

  • Brightside
  • Brilliant Club
  • IntoUniversity
  • Mangorolla
  • MEI
  • Nuffield Foundation
  • Smallpiece
  • with support from Universities UK

The Approach

Together we have identified areas to focus on:

Support engagement with tech

Evidence shows that simply providing technology to disadvantaged students isn’t enough. Villiers is leading work with specialists to develop and provide support for students to best use any technology they have. This includes developing pedagogy and developing behaviours and attributes that enable independent learning. We are also looking to identify technical and practical usage support.
To join this conversation contact

Identify students

Alongside working with students who are part of our programmes we are working with schools, colleges and academy chains to understand the scale of the issues.
If you are a school, college or academy chain then you can help us by completing our questionnaire, which should take no more than 5 minutes. Complete the questionnaire here.

Coordinate and/or support digital delivery

Working with partners and other institutions from across the sector we can share good practice in delivering digital outreach. As well as delivering sessions to support current planning and delivery, we aim to build a toolkit which can be shared.
Email if you would like to support us.

Provide technology/internet

We are working with industry and corporate partners to deliver hardware to students. We are eager to work with people who can provide physical hardware (laptops/internet dongles), supporting with funds, supporting with sourcing and/or supporting with logistics.
If you can help, join our meeting on Mon 4th May. If you'd like to support us, please email


Demonstrating impact of any project is key, and we will be ensuring that all the support we offer has an evaluation plan. If you would like to support the evaluation of these projects then please contact

Our Impact

We work with 2,000 young people a year, empowering them to succeed. View our latest stats and learn about the impact of our work. 
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