The school website is becoming an increasingly valuable tool for schools to communicate with students and parents. Both primary and secondary schools are using their sites to provide letters, newsletters, homework, data, a calendar and more. Ofsted places particular emphasis on the fact that schools shouldn’t be excluding pupil premium pupils, and this is where the design of your school website is crucial.
This makes it essential that your school website can be accessed by every child and family at your school. If you’re putting homework on your website (maybe using a password protected School Portal), or if you’re adding links to help students with their learning, you need to ensure that you’re not excluding some pupils.
You can’t assume that all families will have a PC at home, or have access to one outside the home. What’s more, it’s the families you least want to exclude that may be the most likely to have problems accessing your site. A study in 2013 found that more than a third of children on Pupil Premium do not have a computer at home. In the richest 10% of households, 99% of students can access a computer at home, while in the poorest 10% of families that figure is just 57%. A home computer is an expensive piece of technology and not something that low income families will be able to afford.
While it is of course essential that you give students alternative ways to access anything you put online – for example by making printed copies available or by setting up homework clubs with PC access for Pupil Premium students, the take-up of these alternatives can be low because of the perceived stigma attached.
So what can you do to reach the poorest children? One answer is to ensure that your school website is responsive, meaning that it works just as well on a smartphone as on a desktop PC. To find out what this means, try visiting this website on a smartphone.
Smartphones are no longer limited to expensive iPhones and the like, but include a wide range of devices aimed at different markets, in particular phones running the Android operating system. Android phones are often free if you take out a contract, or cost as little as £9 on pay as you go from Tesco. All of which means that their rate of adoption by lower income families is much higher than for PCs.
So the message is clear – it’s great that schools are using the internet to provide students and other stakeholders with information and resources, but this mustn’t be at the expense of the most disadvantaged kids. By making your website responsive, you’ll go some way towards addressing this problem.