Why a laptop campaign is making a ‘real difference’ to Sheffield’s disadvantaged children

With the Government failing to deliver enough laptops to help disadvantaged children in Sheffield, a laptop campaign has provided a lifeline for families unable to provide devices for their children.
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The Laptops for Kids campaign - launched by The Star, WANdisco and Learn Sheffield - has called on Sheffield businesses and individuals to donate unused computers to help close the ‘digital divide’.

Athelstan Primary School, near Sheffield Parkway, is one of the first schools to benefit, and among those to receive a laptop donation is a single parent to three children.

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Vikki Hart, mum to seven-year-old Castro and two younger boys, said: “Being able to afford a laptop is not possible, even for many working parents.

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

“The first lockdown was hard. Castro was getting paperwork from the school but if he didn’t understand something, there was nobody to ask for help.

“Now he can watch a video on the laptop and see his teacher. He is really enjoying using it. It is more interactive and more fun. My two-year-old is trying to use it as well.

“Athelstan is a great school and the teachers are lovely. They are doing the best they can to help everybody out.”

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The pandemic continues to cause disruption in schools and 37-year-old Vikki told how Castro - who loves science and PE - recently had to self-isolate at home as his school bubble burst.

She added: “I encourage businesses to donate any unwanted devices to Laptops for Kids and support young people with their education.

“I have told my children they can be what they want to be. They should have the opportunity to do that.”

An estimated 11,000 children in Sheffield have no access to a device - across the UK, it equates to nearly one in 10 children.

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Athelstan Primary headteacher, Deb Halliday, said: “This is not politics or the government announcing a £1bn catch-up package for lost learning, this is having a real impact here and now.

“The support has come at just the right time. We have delivered laptops and we are seeing the difference as children complete their home learning online.

“We have 603 pupils at Athelstan, of whom 160 do not not have sufficient internet access at home. A mobile phone is not acceptable. You cannot work for 10 days on a mobile screen.

“We expected to get 58 laptops from the government scheme but received only 12. To get six from the Laptops for Kids campaign is wonderful. It is making a real difference for our children.”

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Chief executive of WANdisco, David Richards, said: “Every household in Sheffield should have access to the internet so children can carry on learning at home during this disruptive time.

“We urge companies to donate devices now and help young people in our city to fulfil their potential, whatever their background.”

Unused laptops, tablets, desktops and chargers can all be donated to The Laptops for Kids campaign.

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Donors can wipe devices themselves or the campaign can arrange for the certified secure erasure of devices at The Sheffield College with software donated by Blancco, a data security firm.

For more information or to organise a donation, visit www.LTFK.co.uk

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.