Rural broadband dropout failing ‘Generation XBox’

Colin Torrens. LS18-133KM10
Colin Torrens. LS18-133KM10

Disparity in broadband provision between urban and rural areas, has the capacity to negatively effect children’s self-esteem and confidence if they cannot keep up with their peers in the classroom or at home, a leading local headmaster has said.

Issues can also arise if parents are unable to access information posted on school websites.

Foyle College Principal Patrick Allen

Foyle College Principal Patrick Allen

“It is important for parents to be able to access pupil records through our school information management system, but they are not working because of poor rural broadband speed, said Patrick Allen, principal at Foyle College.

“We are continually being encouraged to have more remote learning communities in which pupils can access material and collaborate, but to do that you need to have reliable broadband and this is, undoubtedly, an issue in rural areas. To what extent Foyle College pupils are impacted upon I am not sure. I do know we have been working with out staff to make material available online to pupils and parents, but they cannot get past the passwords and firewalls; the broadband just isn’t fast enough.”

At a time when recent studies have shown that academic achievement is more likely to be lower in young Protestant males in areas of perceived deprivation, Mr Allen agreed that to an extent if pupils could not access material relatively immediately, there would be those who would give up trying.

“I call them Generation XBox because in all aspects of life they expect to be able to press the reset button and have it work immediately. That is the world they live in,” he said.

The principal of Lisnagelvin Primary School said that while pupils in post-primary schools had different burdens on them when it came to issues like research for homework, the IT age was also beginning to impact more completely at primary level too - particularly with the ever-increasing use of iPads in the learning environment and in the way parents accessed information on their children.

“A wide range of initiatives are being introduced and parents are being kept informed of pupil progress through little apps we are introducing. For example, their phones will ping and they will get a message like ‘don’t forget to send money for football class’, but they may not get that if they do not have reliable Internet access or if they are in a dead zone that effects mobile telephones. The knock on effect of that is that their children may feel isolated because all their friends or their parents get messages and they don’t.

“We are also used a ‘Class Dojo’ which is very good. It is like Facebook, but very simple to use. Children in class earn points in a reward system,and all this goes into an app and parents can go online and see how they are doing. Teachers can also put stuff on there for parents or pupils to access, but if you cannot get onto these then children are going to feel annoyed and they may come into school feeling isolated at times because they do not have access and other children do.

“We live in a ‘click and go’ age but you need good Internet access to make it work. Pupils need equality of provision. Without it their self-esteem and confidence can dip.”

and children can tease,” he said.