The COVID-19 lockdown means disadvantaged schoolchildren without access to IT at home are missing out on even more schooling – on the second anniversary of GDPR, the redistribution of GDPR fines could help tackle this emerging crisis
Dear Rishi Sunak, Gavin Williamson, and Elizabeth Denham CBE,
In mid-April, the Department for Education launched a brilliant new scheme that provides free laptops for children with a social worker, for children who are care leavers, and for disadvantaged Year-10 students who will be sitting their GCSEs next year, in summer 2021.
“Providing young people with these laptops and tablets will enable children to continue learning now, and in the years to come,” as you, Mr Williamson, quite rightly highlighted.
This is an excellent initiative and a fine example of a quick response to help children during the coronavirus crisis. My deep concern is that this scheme does not go far enough.
There are almost nine million schoolchildren in the United Kingdom, and the vast majority will not attend school when primary schools re-open for a select number of year groups in June, as per plans outlined by the prime minister a fortnight ago.
Consider that it is estimated that four million children in the UK are living in poverty. Given that you, Mr Sunak, said this last week that the UK is facing a recession on a scale “we haven’t seen”, how, then, will disadvantaged Year-9 students, in the first year of their teens, keep up with the vital education they need as they choose their GCSE options?
How will Year 11 children from poorer backgrounds, who do not receive good academic results in their GCSE assessments this summer, access jobs or further education after this school year ends?
What about disadvantaged Year 12 and Year 13 children making applications for universities, colleges or jobs?
A new Resolution Foundation report, published this week, has found that under-25s have been hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, with 23 per cent furloughed and 9 per cent made redundant.
It is likely that many older disadvantaged children and their families have lost income during this crisis and will need access to laptops and tablets to further their education and to connect to jobs and vital volunteering opportunities.
REDISTRIBUTION OF GDPR FUNDS
I believe there could be a solution to this significant challenge.
Monday marks the second anniversary of the most important step ever taken to protect our citizen’s data: the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
As we all saw the stories of the data of 87 million Facebook users being harvested and used without their consent, during the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, we must all acknowledge that GDPR has been a hugely positive addition to Britain’s regulation.
It is of great credit to this government and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that organisations now take more responsibility for the personally identifiable information that they store and process about the citizens of our country.
The reason for my writing, though, is not with regards to the regulation itself – rather, the money that has been raised by the fines in relation to GDPR regulation.
I notice the fines for non-conformance with the GDPR have been considerable and has resulted in the collection of at least £315 million from British businesses.
This is not a bad thing; it shows that we in Britain take people’s valuable data very seriously.
I further note that the ICO is known to distribute fees received from fines to HM Treasury’s Consolidated Fund, with the general public receiving little information about where this money goes other than anecdotal information that this money is distributed towards health and social care, education, policing and justice.
The coronavirus crisis, and consequential national lockdown, has put a stretch and strain on the schoolchildren and young people of Britain like nothing else our country has ever known.
On the second anniversary of the introduction of GDPR I believe there is a brilliant opportunity to redistribute GDPR fines paid out by the HM Treasury’s Consolidated Fund to focus on the people who have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis: our schoolchildren.
Please note I am not asking for additional funding – just the redistribution of fines collected by GDPR breaches.
As the Chief Executive of an Information Technology-managed service provider and chairman of the board of Newcastle Sixth Form college this issue is very close to my heart.
I think it is critical that we all think ahead on this issue. I note that the University of Cambridge has already decided to make all lectures online until the summer of 2021. And it’s highly likely schools could be forced to close again this winter, with a future wave of infections a possibility until a vaccine for COVID-19 can be found.
Without laptops and tablets, these schoolchildren are missing out on the vital education that they should be receiving at this time, and could miss out on even more in future.
I believe it would be particularly apt if GDPR fines received from non-conformance, largely related to IT governance and security, could be redistributed in this manner in order to give our children the IT equipment they need to give them a fighting chance in the future.
Despite the current pandemic, our schoolchildren deserve the same access to education and opportunities that many of us in positions of responsibility have enjoyed.
For the benefit of our schoolchildren and the state of our society in future years, we need to make this happen.