Pupils who have been left without laptops and access to sufficient technology to continue their learning during the third lockdown must be treated as a priority, a Yorkshire academy trust has said.
Red Kite Learning Trust, an academy trust with more than 8,000 pupils spread across 13 schools in the region, has been able to provide many of its children with laptops provided by the Government.
But there is still a significant shortfall – meaning up to 400 students without a device of their own are having to do their remote learning on a phone or share study time with a sibling.
Adam Daly, Principal at Red Kite’s Crawshaw Academy, said: "The equipment already provided by individual schools and the Government has been great – but we need more.
"Many of our pupils come from households that don’t have multiple tablets and laptops, which puts them at a significant disadvantage with so much teaching being done remotely.
"The signs are that it is going to be some time before lessons fully return to normal and in the meantime, we have to do everything we can to give our children the best possible chance to keep up with their education."
In an urgent recycling scheme, the academy trust is now asking for donations of unwanted good quality laptops or tablets, which are then being refurbished and put back to use.
To aid with the programme, the trust has entered into a partnership with West Yorkshire firm Pudsey Computers, which has agreed to ensure any donated laptops are fully wiped of any data and made secure before being passed on to pupils.
To cover refurbishment costs Red Kite launched a Just Giving Campaign, which has already raised more than £4,000.
Some of the first donated devices have already been distributed to Temple Learning Academy in Halton Moor.
Richard Hadfield, the Principle, from Temple Learning Academy, said: "Children here... Can now access lessons and resources from home – it’s making a massive difference already."
Digital divide in Yorkshire
Earlier this month The Yorkshire Post reported on the need for getting laptops to Yorkshire children must to be a priority during this third lockdown.
Fiona Spellman, the Leeds-based chief executive of northern education charity SHINE said that to learn well from home children need "reliable access to the internet on an appropriate device; a quality curriculum offer from their teachers; and regular conversations about learning with their parents or carers".
She said: "Remote learning will remain a feature of our education system long after the pandemic subsides. If we can invest in the skills of teachers and parents now this will pay dividends long into the future."
In South Yorkshire the Laptops for Kids campaign - launched in September 2020 by The Yorkshire Post, sister title The Star, WANdisco and Learn Sheffield - has been providing 11,000 laptops to disadvantaged young people across the city so they can continue with their education at home amid the disruptions of the pandemic.
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.
The Department for Education says a further 300,000 laptops are being made available, taking the total number to 1.3 million, after being criticised for its slow response and failure to foresee the latest lockdown.
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