One year on from Laptops for Learning
In January 2021, as schools shut across the country, we launched our Laptops for Learning initiative in partnership with our Patron Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for Streatham. Many children in Streatham and the surrounding areas struggled to engage with online learning without a device or internet access, often sharing a single smartphone or unable to engage at all. Thanks to generosity from the local community we were able to distribute 44 brand new chromebooks to school children throughout the recent lockdowns.
"The devices were a lifeline to our families and enabled the children to access their online learning and Zoom check in sessions with their class and teacher. Without them, the children would have been at a huge disadvantage upon their return to school. We had a 10 year old girl who was not engaging with online learning as a result of no suitable device. After receiving a device from TechAid, she accessed all of the online learning and all of the 4 weekly Zoom sessions with her class and teacher. She made good progress with her learning for the remainder of the time she was accessing school work remotely" - St Julian's Primary School
Ofcom has estimated that up to 1.78 million children were without a device at the start of the pandemic, alongside a further 880,000 without internet access. Schools around the country, including in Lambeth, are reporting ongoing shortages. The Department for Education reports it has delivered 560,000 devices to date pledging to deliver 750,000 by the end of next week. In July 2020, the learning gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers rose by 46% compared to the same time last year. Bell commented on the fundraiser “I’m happy to announce this campaign to get more devices to local schools and support the amazing local work of Community TechAid but also disappointed that the Government is leaving it to people to shoulder so much responsibility during a time of crisis." So, just over a year on, how have things changed? Whilst schools have reopened, the shift toward e-learning has grown substantially. Using digital tools to complete homework and engage in lessons is here to stay. And whilst there are huge benefits to remote learning, there are still thousands of families who are unable to reap the rewards of online engagement. The pandemic pushed many in poverty and as the cost of living continues to escalate thousands of people remain disconnected. The pandemic may have exposed the digital divide but our reliance on digital technology to engage in the world around us is here to stay, and with it, the increase in those experiencing digital exclusion.