The Laptops for All campaign, backed by The Star, has handed out 170 new devices to 23 schools across Sheffield in just one week, helping children to stay connected with their classrooms during Covid-related absences.
The gift was made possible by a £40,000 donation from law firm Irwin Mitchell which raised the funds by recycling old computers from its offices.
Stocksbridge Junior School was among the schools this week who got to give their pupils access to Chromebooks to help them learn.
Headteacher Samantha Gaymond said: “We want laptops to be readily available and an entitlement, and we have been making long-term loans of devices to families during the pandemic. They are important not just for education but also for avoiding social isolation, seeing familiar faces and providing structure during the day.
“We don’t want the lack of laptops at home to be a barrier to learning and we want parents to feel confident about asking the school for them. We want laptops to be part of our offer and if there are devices and data available in Sheffield, there will always be a need in education. This will go beyond Covid – we cannot make use of blended learning in the future if it is not inclusive.”
The Laptops for All campaign is calling on employers and individuals to donate laptops, tablets or cash to help close the digital divide in Sheffield and South Yorkshire
Laptops for All is working with local charities including Age UK, The Food Works and Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care and the local NHS to distribute devices and data according to need. Campaign supporters include Blancco Technology Group, Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Rebuyer, TecSec, The Sheffield College and WANdisco plc.
Co-founder David Richards MBE said: “It is totally unjust that children are unable to stay connected with their classes just because they don’t have the technology at home. We applaud the efforts of law firm Irwin Mitchell in supporting our campaign with such a substantial donation which will help many families in need across Sheffield. We urge employers and individuals to support Laptops for All because in today’s world, it is increasingly difficult to do basic tasks without devices and data.”
Fiona Benoist, head of IT Services at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting Laptops for All in their efforts to give local children the tools they need to make the most of the educational opportunities available to them.
“Schools and businesses alike are likely to see hybrid working patterns continue as we emerge from lockdown restrictions. The availability of laptops will help to ensure fewer children are left out by not having the technology they need to achieve success.”
The campaign launched as Laptops for Kids in 2020 in response to the pandemic and has sourced more than 14,000 devices across the north of England.
It is estimated that six per cent of UK households remain offline, making it difficult to take part in activities including education, employment, healthcare and even staying in touch with friends and family.