Business leaders in Cheshire are being urged to help support thousands of children from across the region who are without access to online learning during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Spearheaded by the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the Computers for Schools [#GettingStudentsOnline] campaign aims to lend a hand to students who do not have a computer or internet access at home.
It comes after recent figures showed that more than 2,400 students in the region do not have a computer or Broadband during lockdown.
And now, as many youngsters face the prospect of waiting until September to return to classrooms, the LEP is calling on local businesses to pledge their support to pupils who are unable to take part in their lessons online.
It is hoped the project will help enhance the home learning of those children who do not have access to online tools, as well as providing much-needed support to parents.
Clare Hayward MBE DL, chair of the LEP, said: “By the time many children return to classrooms in September, they will have had around six months out of school which, as research suggests, could equate to a year of missed school time for some children. For those without computer and internet access, the long-term impact will undoubtably be far more substantial.
“Our schools are doing everything they can to make home learning as easy and accessible as possible, with teachers developing virtual schooling overnight. We also know that having access to online tools helps bring lessons to life, offering the chance for students to engage with their learning and access support directly from their teachers.
“This campaign will allow schools to loan either a desktop computer or laptop, as well as a three-month internet bundle, to students who are currently unable to access such facilities. They’ll then be able to ‘recycle’ the kit for other pupils to use as and when the times comes.”
As part of the campaign, the LEP is donating £30,000 worth of equipment, offering around 120 kits to secondary school students in the area.
Local companies are now being asked to support with either cash donations or via the purchase of new kit, with the likes of online retailer AO.com; global energy company Storengy; energy and services company ENGIE; and marketing communications agency Influential already signed up.
Kerrie Salisbury from AO said: “As a local business, we have a long-standing involvement with both Cheshire and Warrington LEP and many schools in Crewe and Nantwich.
“Here at AO, we’ve always been advocates for improving aspirations and enabling social mobility, and we understand that, without access to the right technology, some students will fall behind. Vulnerable students, especially, won’t have the same advantages as those who are more fortunate, so we were only more than happy to get involved and help with the donation of laptops.”
Ryan Pearce, operations director at ENGIE, said: “At ENGIE, we’re committed to supporting and investing in the communities we work with. Cheshire East is an area close to our heart, due to our long-standing partnership with the council in the region, so we jumped at the chance to get involved with the Computers for Schools campaign.
“During these challenging times, it’s never been more important for children to be able to stay connected to their teachers and classmates, so I’m sure this fantastic initiative will make a real difference to families in the area.”
Among the areas found to be most affected by a lack of online access for school children are Ellesmere Port, Crewe and Warrington.
Charlotte Casewell, Assistant Principal at Sir William Stanier School in Crewe – which is benefitting from donations made by both AO and ENGIE – said: “As soon as we went into lockdown, it became very clear that some students were struggling with connectivity, including slow or non-existent Broadband, or sometimes a lack of equipment to share among the family when parents were working at home.
“While paper-based learning packs have helped to some degree with these students, we want to break that barrier of access to virtual learning and make sure that as many of our students as possible are able use our online tools and get involved with our virtual community.
“The students benefitting from this campaign will hopefully see a huge improvement in their learning experience, feeling more engaged, motivated and included.”
In addition to supporting with school work, the LEP is also hoping the campaign will boost children’s social interactions, enable them to take part in online summer schools, and help improve their mental health.
Clare added: “Of course, completing tasks set by their teachers are important during this time, but children are also missing out on those all-important face-to-face interactions with their school community.
“Having a computer and access to the internet will allow more students to take part in full-class or group tasks, interacting with their peers and teachers to improve their home learning experience.
“We’re confident that, with the support of local businesses, we can make a real difference to many students’ lives during these truly unprecedented times.” To find out more information about the Computers for Schools campaign, visit #GettingStudentsOnline campaign.
The Cat is not responsible for external websites.