Councils organise local computers for remote schooling schemes
Norfolk, Essex, Greater Manchester and West Midlands among authorities setting up local projects
Several local and combined authorities have established their own projects to provide computer equipment to children and young people learning from home, in addition to work by central government.
Norfolk County Council, working with Norfolk Community Foundation and the Eastern Daily Press, is organising the refurbishment of used devices from businesses and organisations as well as collecting donations from individuals for this work. By 22 January it said it had distributed around 2,000 laptops and tablets, with 500 provided directly by the council, although it estimated the county’s schools needed around 6,000 in total. Its campaign has since been boosted by a donation of 625 new Chromebooks from Lotus Cars, which is based in the country.
By late January Essex County Council estimated it had distributed around 3,000 iPads, Chromebooks and laptops to schools for them to pass on to families who need them, prioritising those with no access to a device. It has worked with EOL IT to recondition and remove data from laptops donated by organisations, and hopes to open this to individuals again when Covid-19 restrictions allow.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority has set up a technology fund which has so far raised £260,100 in money and hardware donations, collaborating with the Manchester Evening News with support from companies including Virgin Media Business and Boohoo. It has provided digital equipment to 638 pupils, but says that 131 schools and colleges have registered needs for more than 13,200 students. It asks businesses to provide used and new devices, as well as data packages and connectivity devices.
West Midlands Combined Authority is donating around 150 old laptops and desktops to a local community interest company, Wowdot, which is aiming to provide 1,000 families in Birmingham with a computer and a 12-month internet connection. Aston Villa Football Club is also contributing laptops and tablets, which will be refurbished by social enterprise Repc.
Other parts of the public sector are contributing to local schemes, with Sellafield Ltd recently donating 156 recycled laptops and computers to schools in West Cumbria, having given nearly 500 devices last year.
The Department for Education’s national scheme for England has so far provided 987,000 of a planned 1.3m laptops and tablets to schools, colleges, academy trusts and local authorities this academic year.
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