Harrow Council has successfully completed a pilot project aimed at ending digital poverty for children across the Borough.
Working in partnership with edtech charity LGfL-The National Grid for Learning, 85 laptops donated by the Council were wiped, repurposed and distributed to schools to enable disadvantaged pupils to work remotely from home in the event of further Covid outbreaks.
ICT support specialist Beebug, an LGfL digital transformation partner joined ranks to deliver the 85 laptops to St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Belmont School and St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School in Harrow and Glebe Primary School in Kenton, Middlesex – all of which have high numbers of children on free school meals.
Commenting on the school’s latest delivery Headteacher Chris Briggs from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Harrow, said: “When lockdown commenced the school had just 5 laptops to share amongst 420 children.
The DfE kindly gave us 23 and parents donated another 3, but it was still not enough to cater for those children without internet or laptops at home to enable them to benefit fully from remote learning.
“The additional 30 laptops we received from Harrow Council and LGfL are very much appreciated. Now the children are back, we are using them effectively before and after school in our National Tutoring intervention programme to help close the attainment gap.
“We also plan to loan them out to children so they can continue to learn should their bubble close and they be sent home to self-isolate. 55 of our pupils are disadvantaged and 53% of our children have English as an additional language (EAL) – pupils whose first language is other than English.
“Microsoft Teams has been uploaded on all our newly refurbished laptops – so the children are now able to translate content and use Microsoft’s Immersive Reader – a free tool, built into Word that implements proven techniques to improve reading and writing for people regardless of their age or ability.
“I’m hugely grateful – it’s definitely a step in the right direction – it will help us to close the attainment gap and to tackle digital poverty.”
Commenting on digital poverty, Richard Martin, Digital Transformation Lead at LGfL, who is working with a number of Local Authorities on device recycling initiatives, said: “According to the Sutton Trust and Teacher Tapp1 only 10 per cent of schools across the country reported all their pupils had a laptop.
“Ofcom2also estimates that between 1.14 million and 1.78 million UK children – nine per cent – lack access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home – and more than 880,000 live in a household with only a mobile internet connection.
“Urgent action is required if we are to bridge the widening 18 month attainment gap for disadvantaged children who make up 27% of the UK’s population.
“Most of the local authorities I have spoken to are keen to keep repurposing programmes such as these going way beyond the lifting of restrictions.
“As Sir Kevan Collins, the Government’s Catch Up Tsar stated ‘a long and sustained period of recovery is required for all children’.”
LGfL who funded the pilot is keen to hear from local businesses who are happy to donate in excess of 30 devices that are in functioning condition and less than 7 years old.
Laptops, Chromebooks and tablets that can be repurposed would be very much appreciated as would servers, telephony and networking equipment that is in reasonable condition as this could be refurbished and sold to fund the work on devices for children. Please contact email@example.com
Commenting on the programme, Cllr Christine Robson, Cabinet member for Young People and Schools, said: “I am very pleased with the progress we have made with this initiative, to do what we can to help families and schools where the ‘digital divide’ has had such impact. It is part of our total support for our school partners.”
Concluding, Paul Hewitt, Harrow Council said: “This initiative has made a huge difference to digitally disadvantaged children in Harrow….so well done and thank you on behalf of our schools, and thank you from me as Director of Children’s Services.”