Thousands of children across Sheffield to receive computers thanks to £1.5 million boost for laptop campaign

Thousands of children across the city who are struggling to homeschool without a laptop will now receive one thanks to a £1.5 million investment from Sheffield Council.

Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 12:04 pm

The Laptops for Kids campaign - launched in September 2020 by The Star, WANdisco and Learn Sheffield - has been providing laptops to disadvantaged young people across the city so they can continue with their education at home amid the disruptions of the pandemic.

The financial boost from Sheffield Council will provide 1,000 pre-used laptops for school children of all ages, funding to purchase at least a further 5,000, and internet connectivity for children who currently do not have access at home.

Sheffield Council leader councillor Bob Johnson said: “Over the past year, the pandemic has particularly impacted on our young people.

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Rane Robinson is tackling her homeschooling with gusto after receiving a laptop from Laptops For Kids

"After the Government announced that schools were to be closed for most children, it has left many of our young people without access to online learning.

“This is increasing the inequalities in education, with some children having the technology to work from home whilst some simply do not have devices or the internet connections that are needed.

“As a council we cannot stand by and let this happen, we owe it to these children to do everything we can to get them the support they need to make online learning work as effectively as we can whilst schools remain closed.

"In this time of crisis, it is crucial that we do everything in our power to make sure we are not leaving our children behind.

The Laptops for Kids campaign was officially launched in September. Pictured are David Richards, CEO of WANdisco and Abtisam Mohamed, Labour Councillor for the Firth Park Ward and Cabinet Member for Education and Skills.

“We want to provide enough devices so we can make sure that no child is left without and with our support, we will provide 6,000 laptops to those who need them.

"This will enable more children to learn at home, reducing the number of children that are in school which will help to reduce the transmission of the virus.”

Although schools are closed as a result of the pandemic, there are children who are having to attend because they do not have access to online learning at home.

Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “I would like to thank all of our teachers, schools, pupils and parents who are doing an incredible job in these unprecedented times.

Salma Akhtar with her children Haadiya, Dayyan, Yusra, Ruqayyah and Abdul-Hannan, who have received a laptop as part of the Laptops for Kids campaign. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

“The response to the Laptops for Kids campaign from the people of Sheffield and the business community has been phenomenal. We have seen thousands of devices already pledged, but the failure of the Government to plan and provide the funding needed means many children are still being left without.

“We know that the digital divide runs much deeper than this and I continue to urge our local businesses and the people of Sheffield to support the amazing work of this brilliant campaign.”

The idea behind Laptops for Kids - now a charitable organisation - is to provide all children with access to equipment and technology they need to succeed in their education, by bringing together a group of like minded organisations, each providing unique expertise at different stages of the process.

The campaign model is being perfected in Sheffield but the campaign has recently launched in Doncaster and there are plans to expand further afield.

Assistant headteacher James Mills, with Castro Hart-Richards and Vikki Hart, pictured with the laptop at Athelstan Primary School.

It was instigated by WANdisco chief executive, David Richards. He said: “We welcome this powerful show of support for our campaign from Sheffield Council.

"We have proved our model of securing donations, securely wiping the devices, and distributing them according to need in Sheffield has worked, and are sharing our approach across the North of England.

“We would like to thank our partners for all their hard work to date and of course our incredible donors.

“Our campaign demonstrates the power of teamwork between business and civic leaders and we urge employers and individuals to continue supporting our efforts. No child should be denied their basic right to education just because they cannot get online at home. The need is growing, and we must redouble our efforts to close the digital divide across South Yorkshire and the North.”

At the end of last year, it was estimated that 11,000 children in Sheffield did not have access to a device. It is a situation that is replicated across the whole of the UK.

Learn Sheffield chief executive Stephen Betts said: “Our audit identified that Sheffield schools, academies and colleges have already provided around seven thousand devices by loaning out existing equipment and purchasing additional devices.

Salma Akhtar with her children Haadiya, Dayyan, Yusra, Ruqayyah and Abdul-Hannan, who have received a laptop as part of the Laptops for Kids campaign. Picture: Scott Merrylees.

"This is in addition to the donations from the Laptops for Kids campaign and devices from the Department for Education.

"The investment from Sheffield Council makes the hope of providing a device and connectivity for every Sheffield child or young person who needs support into a reality.”

The Laptops for Kids campaign was in response to the Government’s failure to provide the necessary support for young people across Sheffield.

A taskforce of business and civic leaders was created to help scale up the campaign, working together to help promote it and develop its supply chain.

Donations from businesses, individuals and charities have now begun to help families across Sheffield and now, it is hoped that many more young people can be helped with the additional investment.

It is known that there are still many young people without access to a suitable device, with some doing their school work via mobile phones with limited data and patchy internet coverage.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.