Donations sought as schools IT appeal is launched
An appeal has been launched for IT donations to help city school pupils whose education has been affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
As new research illustrates the impact of the coronavirus on the education of school pupils, an appeal is now being made to businesses, residents and anyone else who can help bridge the digital divide for thousands of Birmingham students.
The Digital Education Partnership was initially brought together by Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) as a response to the impact of COVID-19 on the education and well-being of the children and young people in Birmingham.
When schools closed to most pupils in March, home was the setting for most children’s educational and wellbeing support – and using sample data, the Digital Education Partnership estimated that at least 5,000 pupils in the city need digital connection (a broadband connection, a suitable device or both).
The Digital Education Partnership is working hard to help schools to unlock existing resources so that existing stock and repurposed devices from within schools can be safely used in the first instance to alleviate the worst of the problems.
Since late March, over a hundred pre-owned machines have been refurbished and given to pupils in need but much more is needed in terms of technological or cash donations. Requests from schools are coming in every day and more than 250 requests are currently outstanding.
Cllr Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The coronavirus crisis is causing unprecedented challenges across all aspects of society, but for our schools it has thrown a spotlight on the invisible barrier to learning and attainment caused by tech poverty.
“The current demand for devices is extraordinary and the impact on the supply chain means that prices are high and availability severely restricted. Costs and availability are also fluctuating by the day.
“This means we cannot just buy our way out of this very easily or quickly. Some progress has been made but there is still a long way to go.
“By our estimates, around £150 makes an old device ready for re-use by a student in the city. Scaling this up, we could equip an entire class for just £4,500.
“If there is anyone out there, be it a large employer with IT assets they have no use for or an individual who can make a donation, please let the Digital Education Partnership know. We would also really welcome any interest from telecommunications companies as connectivity continues to be a major issue for vulnerable families.”
The Digital Education Partnership will be working independently of the recent measures announced by the Government because as welcome as they are, it is believed they do not go far enough, quickly enough.
The Government has committed to provide laptops for vulnerable Year 10 pupils, those with a social worker and care leavers but no provision has been made for children and young people in any other year groups.
Manjit Shellis, Assistant Director for Wider Learning at Birmingham Education Partnership, said: “Every day counts in the education and well-being of a child. We welcome what the Government is doing to assist those in need and believe our work will supplement that by unlocking existing resources to provide a faster, more direct solution in some of the most deprived areas of the city.
“We are focusing on the needs of vulnerable children across all age groups, both primary and secondary. We know that digital exclusion can further entrench existing disadvantage and that vulnerable groups can benefit disproportionately from being online.
“We are really grateful to everyone who has contributed so far but there is a lot more needed. Any further help we can receive will be warmly welcomed.”
Offers of help and assistance can be made via https://bep.education/wider-learning/home-learning-technology-support/hometechcanyoudonate/
The Digital Education Partnership group currently consists of:
- Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP)
- Digital Birmingham (BCC) and its commercial partners
- BELF (Birmingham E-Learning Foundation)
- Titan Partnership
Focus of the Group
To work in partnership to:
- Support schools across Birmingham, to ensure that children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable, have access to online education and well-being;
- To support schools to initially use their own resources to support home e-learning;
- To build partnerships that will support the digital inclusion agenda by providing financial and in-kind support when needed;
- To work strategically to promote digital inclusion.