If Covid has shown us one thing it’s the importance of having a good broadband connection and suitable devices. This is particularly the case as a result of home schooling for children.
Opinions differ has to how widespread the issue of so-called digital poverty is but this report in September 2020 from the Office for Students suggests that over half the students lacked a suitable internet connection and nearly 20% lacked a suitable device. As there are about 8.9 million school children, that means that about 1.8 million lack suitable equipment (the broadband issue is perhaps more difficult to solve). The situation may have improved since this report was produced. The government recently announced that a further 300,000 laptops would be made available but the Association of School and College Leaders, accused them of being “slow off the mark” in addressing the digital divide and that “we are only now inching up to the number of devices that are needed.”
One problem might be that the demand for laptops has considerably increased over the last nine months and it may be proving hard to source them from the global market. The solution to this problem may lie closer to home: indeed, in our homes. While some families have fewer devices than they need, others may have many more than they use, with redundant ones shoved in cupboards and under desks. Indeed, it’s possible that there are enough such devices in the country but that some of them are in the wrong place. These, and desktop devices, can be re-purposed and supplied to schools for onward distribution.
An appeal for IT devices
The issue was given local prominence recently when Richard Hawthorne, the Head of John O’Gaunt in Hungerford, revealed that a significant number of pupils did not have access to suitable devices for enough time, or at all, during school hours. Mobiles are fine for many needs in normal times but are not suitable for home learning. He told Penny Post on 21 January that the most urgent aspect of the problem has now been solved and over 80 devices have been provided to families that needed them most. About 35 of these cam from the Department for Education. The rest were sourced through funds made available by the school’s Excalibur Trust and also by a very generous donation by Hungerford Town Council which was match funded through Greenham Trusts’s Good Exchange. These devices will all be owned by the school and so are assets that will be available for several years. He also added how delighted he had been by the local response to his appeal.
That does not completely solve the problem, however. Although all families of JoG pupils now have at least the bare minimum, some require either kit to bring access up to an acceptable standard. As all donated kit needs to be checked and re-purposed and as not all donations might be suitable for a particular school, the best advice we can offer is that these be handed over to Green Machine Computers (see below for details and collection points). Green Machine deals with a number of schools and charities in the area. The more kit it receives, the more quickly it will be able to make sure that all of these receive the devices they badly need.
Mr Mayer, Head of Hungerford Primary School, is also very keen to accept laptop or tablet donations (less than four years old to have the capability to run the software which the children need to use). Currently, the school has loaned out 19 new laptops and 20 of the school’s own stock of laptops. They have received a few donations directly to the school which their IT technician has been able to make suitable for pupils to use at home.
Green Machine Computers
One thing that may put people off donating is the matter of the data. Specialist and accredited firms like Green Machine Computers in Ramsbury are expert at ensuring that this is completely wiped and at refurbishing and, where possible, upgrading the kit. The company is also in touch with many local schools and charities that badly need the devices. Simon Crisp, Green Machine’s MD, told Penny Post in early January that one of their challenges at the moment is that the supply of redundant equipment from companies has largely tried up as so many are closed. It’s for this reason that he’s asked that people come forward if they have any kit at home that they are no longer using.
If you have any unwanted IT equipment (and not just laptops or tablets), you can get it to Green Machine via any of the following collection points:
- Green Machine‘s office in Wittonditch, near Ramsbury
- My Apple Juice at Hungerford Park
- Packaging Not Included in Marlborough
- The Community Furniture Project in Newbury.
That way you can be sure that not only will the disc be wiped but also that the device will go to someone who really needs it. There’s never been a better time to get it moved on to the next and more productive phase of its life.
The Newbury Weekly News on 15 January 2021 has as its lead story the support offered by others including Greenham Trust (which has launched a Laptops for Lockdown learning appeal); and Image Through Quality in Thatcham (which offers to print home-learning documents for families that need them free of charge).
The fire stations in Ramsbury, Swindon, Stratton can accept donated laptops or tablets – see here for more information.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are involved in collecting and re-purposing IT kit for schools or charities in the area and would like to have this publicised.