Sheffield City Council will provide thousands of additional laptops to support children who are currently having to home school, without the devices to do so.
1,000 pre-used laptops will be provided to school children of all ages and funding will be made available to purchase at least a further 5000. In addition, connectivity will be funded for children who do not have access to this at home. The investment into this project will be in the region of £1.5 million.
Working in partnership with the Laptops for Kids campaign, this project has been supported by many partners across the city and has already generated thousands of pledged devices to support children. Unfortunately, the Government’s failure to put the necessary support in place means that many children are still without laptops and unable to continue with their studies.
This announcement follows the hugely successful Digital Summit that the council hosted on Friday 22 January, which bought together over 100 individuals and businesses across a variety of sectors, including the Voluntary, Community and Faith sectors, to collectively address the digital divide across the city.
As part of the project, the council has been working with Learn Sheffield and schools across the city to identify those children and young people who do not have access to a device.
Councillor Bob Johnson, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said:
“Over the past year, the pandemic has particularly impacted on our young people. After the Government announced that schools were to be closed for most children, it has left many of our young people without access to online learning.
“This is increasing the inequalities in education, with some children having the technology to work from home whilst some simply do not have devices or the internet connections that are needed.
“As a council we cannot stand by and let this happen, we owe it to these children to do everything we can to get them the support they need to make online learning work as effectively as we can whilst schools remain closed. In this time of crisis, it is crucial that we do everything in our power to make sure we are not leaving our children behind.
“We want to provide enough devices so we can make sure that no child is left without and with our support, we will provide 6,000 laptops to those who need them. This will enable more children to learn at home, reducing the number of children that are in school which will help to reduce the transmission of the virus.”
Councillor Abtisam Mohamed, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills said:
“I would like to thank all of our teachers, schools, pupils and parents who are doing an incredible job in these unprecedented times.
“The response to the Laptops for Kids campaign from the people of Sheffield and the business community has been phenomenal, we have seen thousands of devices already pledged, but the failure of Government to plan and provide the funding needed means many children are still being left without.
“We know that the digital divide runs much deeper than this and I continue to urge our local businesses and the people of Sheffield to support the amazing work of this brilliant campaign.”
Technology entrepreneur David Richards, who instigated Laptops for Kids with The Star newspaper, said:
“We welcome this powerful show of support for our campaign from Sheffield City Council. We have proved our model of securing donations, securely wiping the devices, and distributing them according to need in Sheffield has worked, and are sharing our approach across the North of England.
“We would like to thank our partners for all their hard work to date and of course our incredible donors.
“Our campaign demonstrates the power of teamwork between business and civic leaders and we urge employers and individuals to continue supporting our efforts. No child should be denied their basic right to education just because they cannot get online at home. The need is growing, and we must redouble our efforts to close the digital divide across South Yorkshire and the North.”
Stephen Betts, Chief Executive of Learn Sheffield, said:
“Our audit identified that Sheffield schools, academies and colleges have already provided around seven thousand devices by loaning out existing equipment and purchasing additional devices. This is in addition to the donations from the Laptops for Kids campaign and devices from the Department for Education. The investment from Sheffield City Council makes the hope of providing a device and connectivity for every Sheffield child or young person who needs support into a reality.”
Laptops for Kids partners include Blancco plc, the global leader in certified data erasure, Twinkl, a world-leading online educational publisher, Learn Sheffield, a nonprofit owned by schools, colleges and Sheffield City Council, the non-political Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Natterhub, an educational social media platform, The Sheffield College, and WANdisco plc, the data software company jointly headquartered in Sheffield and Silicon Valley.