Every Child Online - New campaign to get laptops and devices to children

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool.

The Every Child Online campaign has hit almost 5,000 laptops. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

An urgent call-to-arms was today issued to try to ensure that every child in Norfolk who needs a laptop for home schooling is able to get access to one.

An estimated 6,000 in the county are without a digital device to complete online learning, with 1,000 families believed to have no way at all to connect to the internet.

Today, this newspaper is launching the Every Child Online campaign, alongside Norfolk County Council and the Norfolk Community Foundation (NCF) to shorten the digital divide during the pandemic by asking businesses and individuals to donate their unused devises to support a child's learning.

Those wishing to help can also donate funds to the NCF to be spend on new laptops, tablets and internet connections.

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool.

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

David Powles, editor of the EDP and Norwich Evening News, said: "It's so vital that every single child is given access to a computer or laptop and I've seen first-hand just how important online access is to home schooling.

"Those children that have to go without risk being left behind their classmates through no fault of their own - and that is completely unacceptable.

"Of course, in the long-term we must continue to fight for more to be done to ensure online access for all, no matter where they are from or what their background, however there is a desperate need right now and we need to find a way to fill these gaps.

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"I really hope people will be able to back this vital campaign." 

With schools and academies closed to most youngsters until at least late February, the high level of need has arisen because most children are now expected to complete a full curricular day of learning. This means multiple devices may be needed to enable every child in a family to participate in online classes, with adults also working from home.

Schools are providing a full curriculum experience with teachers available to help children as they learn. Many schools can provide printed out packs if necessary, families facing difficulties accessing learning materials digitally should contact their school for help.

Norfolk county councillor John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We want to do as much as we can to help Norfolk’s schools to support their children’s learning while they are at home, so we’re launching this appeal today to get hundreds of devices to children across the county.

“We know more equipment is getting to schools from the government and it’s fantastic that such great community spirit exists in Norfolk to help build on what is already on offer.

“We think there are a number of businesses and organisations in Norfolk who have ex-corporate kit they no longer need, so we appealing to them to help us help the county’s children by donating it as soon as possible so every child can have the best remote education possible during these difficult times.”

Claire Cullens, chief executive of NCF, added: “Every day of learning lost is another hurdle to climb. We need to change that and help them now. Your support today will change their lives tomorrow.”

Approximately 2,000 laptops and tablets have already been handed out to those in need during the pandemic, either directly to youngsters or to their schools – 500 of which have been directly provided by the council and with government support.

Those wishing to donate equipment should email devices@norfolk.gov.uk.

To donate funds click here.

How to donate your devices to pupils in need for this newspaper's Every Child Online campaign

This newspaper, Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Community Foundation is running the Every Child Online campaign to try to end the digital divide during the pandemic and beyond by asking businesses and readers to donate their unused devises to support a child's learning or donate money so that equipment can be purchased and handed out.

It is estimated 6,000 Norfolk children are without a digital device to complete online learning, with 1,000 unable to connect to the internet from across the county's 430 schools and academies.

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool.

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Those who wish to get involved by sending equipment or donating funds to purchase laptops, tablets and internet connections can do so by emailing devices@norfolk.gov.uk. 

To donate money click here.

Any second-hand devices should be wiped or reformatted before being sent, advice and guidance is available on how to do this is available by emailing devices@norfolk.gov.uk.

Once received, school IT teams will fully re-image devices into Windows 10 or Chromebook devices and issue to schools within a week of donation.

'There's going to be a rich and poor divide' - teachers say laptops are crucial for home learning

Norfolk headteachers say student access to an internet connected device is crucial to ensuring disadvantaged children are not left behind during lockdown.

It comes as teachers from across the county back our Every Child Online campaign, which urges people to donate unwanted equipment and funds to pay for laptops, tablets and internet.

James Gosden, headteacher at North Walsham High School said students at the school were missing out on vital online learning resources as they did not have internet access.

James Gosden is the headteacher at North Walsham High School. Picture: Supplied by North Walsham Hig

James Gosden is the headteacher at North Walsham High School. - Credit: North Walsham High School

He said: "This is incredibly important, because to be able to set work and ensure the quality of it, they need to have access, because if they don't there's going to be a rich and poor divide.

"We're offering online lessons because it's the right thing to do, but if some students can't get access then some are getting a better standard of education than those we print worksheets off for.

"We've got around 8% who are unable to access these resources, but I think the number is higher because people are trying to get by with what they've got and don't want to bother people.

"We've had to physically tell parents 'you need this come and get it', so people need to be urged to come forward.

"This campaign will really help students, otherwise we're going to see the poor get poorer and the educationally rich get richer."

Stuart Allen, headteacher at Mile Cross Primary School said lack of access was leading to increased workload for teachers and withholding education resources from students.

Stuart Allen, Headteacher, Mile Cross Primary Academy Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Stuart Allen, Headteacher, Mile Cross Primary Academy Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

He said: "For children from disadvantaged backgrounds we've got to make sure they can access the whole amount of learning that every child should be able to.

"For me the answer is the provision of hardware which allows them to access what's available without a cost.

"We need to be ensuring it's an even playing field across the land irrespective of your background.

"We've got 68 out of 470 children who don't have access to the technology they need to get online and that's quite a high proportion of children.

"Teachers are working very long hours through these times and it's exhausting, for every teacher it's very anxiety inducing anyway."

Email casey.cooper-fiske@archant.co.uk to let us know how you're getting involved.

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