A mayor is leading an appeal for old laptops and tablets in a bid to improve children’s access to home learning during lockdown.
Sean Clayton, the mayor of Ashbourne in Derbyshire, has launched the Laptop for Learners scheme to ensure that all pupils in local schools have the necessary technology to study online from home.
The initiative has seen 21 electronic devices, including laptops, printers and tablets, donated within eight days of the launch.
With internet access issues also being a well-discussed topic, Mr Clayton also aims to provide disadvantaged families with internet access through his fundraiser appeal on Facebook.
The supportive response of the town was of no surprise to Mr Clayton: “Ashbourne is a very close-knit community, so I never really had any doubt that I would get the help that I needed.”
The campaign has raised over £500 within the first week of their fundraiser, which will help provide internet access for disadvantaged families.
A local computing shop, Code Red Computers, are also providing support by checking over and wiping the electronics free of charge before they are distributed to families in need.
Why is this important for children’s home learning?
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the closure of schools once again within the UK, with most children now being educated through online classes.
However this move to home learning has caused concerns that children without access to a laptop are missing out on vital education.
Child Poverty Action Group found that the first national lockdown in March 2020 saw up to 40% of families not having access to a laptop or the internet, as well as other equipment like printers or stationery.
Data published by the Department of Education shows that over 200,00 electronic devices were distributed in the recent weeks and over 800,00 has been delivered to schools to date.
However Mr Clayton said that there is still a shortage of resources and that the time to act is now whilst the children are learning from home.
“The urgency is in the next four-to-six weeks, after that I don’t think my campaign will actually make anymore impact,” he added.
‘An exception to the rule’
The idea for the campaign came after Mr Clayton watched an evening program which featured a family struggling to access classes from home due to a lack of digital resources.
He said that he initially thought the family was “an exception to the rule” but decided to ask the local school, Ashbourne Primary School, the next day.
“I didn’t sleep too well and so I phoned the local school the next morning to ask the question: ‘Have you got any children that are supposed to be home learning that either have to come to school or have got no access to technology?’
“And out of the 300-and-something children there were nearly 30 children without access to technology in her school,” he added.
“These are the people who are going to be running our country in 25 years time.”
The motivation behind this project Mr Clayton explained he was “bothered” by the fact the next generation wouldn’t have access to education.
“I just thought about my own children and my own grandchildren,” he said.
“I thought about how these are the people that are going to be earning the money in the UK, these are the people going to be paying the taxes and these are the people who are going to be running our country in 25 years time.
“I was a little bit bothered that they may not have the access to the technology or be educated enough to do that.”
Visit the Laptop for Learners page for more information.
Anyone looking to donate can contact Mr Clayton on 07891 052736, or can drop off any unwanted laptops at Code Red Computers.