A campaign has been launched to provide hundreds of children across Cornwall with the kit they need to access online learning.
There are more than 1,800 children in Cornwall without access to a computer or affordable data connection which means they risk falling behind in their education, especially during the Covid lockdown.
This is despite more than 500 laptops being provided to Cornish schools by the Department for Education this month.
Now the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) has teamed up with Newquay-based Crowdfunder, Cornwall Council and local businesses to launch the Kit4Kids campaign to help bridge the gap.
The campaign is asking as many businesses, community organisations and individuals as possible to help raise a minimum of £75,000 to buy laptops and data dongles for Cornish primary and secondary schools to loan to families in need. £200 is enough to provide a laptop and Crowdfunder has pledged to match £4,000 in donations.
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has kicked off the campaign with a £20,000 contribution, which is enough to provide 100 laptops.
Frances Brennan, who chairs the LEP’s Employment and Skills Board, said: “Digital inclusion is vital to give our young people the opportunities they deserve which is why we have asked our Digital Skills Partnership to lead this campaign and have pledged enough funding to buy 100 laptops. This equipment will help deal with immediate home schooling issues, and create a legacy by bridging the digital divide for hundreds of children and their families long after the pandemic is over. Now more than ever we need to support families to have full access to online learning and they shouldn’t have to choose between food, heating or educating their children.”
Caitlin Gould, Chair of the Digital Skills Partnership and a director of Cornish software company Bluefruit, said: “The ability for families to have laptops and access to the internet in their home will help ensure students across Cornwall aren’t left behind. It will also help parents and carers to connect with schools for critical updates, find support from local community groups and create new opportunities for family learning. It isn’t just a laptop, it’s a lifeline that can make staying home and staying safe possible.”
Kit4Kids is being supported by Crowdfunder which is waiving its usual fees and has already launched similar campaigns in other parts of the country. Founder Rob Love said: “It’s great to see so many people – including parents, friends, family and local businesses – coming together to get hundreds of children the kit they need to access vital online learning resources.
“Crowdfunder is delighted to bring this all together in one place with the LEP’s backing and will be making a matched donation of up to £4,000 as an additional contribution.”
Cabinet Member for Children and Public Health at Cornwall Council, Sally Hawken added: “Being connected with lessons, friends and teachers is vitally important for the mental wellbeing and future prospects of young people in Cornwall. Again, this is another example of the community spirit in our communities; where a problem has been highlighted and members of the public step in and help out. Thank you to all of those that have added their support to this campaign.”
Alex Lingard, headteacher at Liskeard School and Community College, is backing the Kit4Kids campaign. He said: “There are many families across Cornwall disadvantaged by not having access to IT. Lack of internet connectivity or a lack of devices, such as laptops or home PCs, can often result in children falling behind in their education. This is even more the case during the current lockdown where lessons are being delivered online. Providing such resources to families unable to afford their own has a significant impact on their children’s education. Not only are pupils able to access their lessons, it gives them the tools to complete and submit work, but also, crucially, allows them to interact directly with their teachers and peers.”
The parent of a Year 8 pupil said: “Being supplied with a laptop by the school has been a lifesaver. Before we had one, my son struggled to access lessons on his phone and I really didn’t know how to help him. His motivation dropped and life at home became quite strained. With his new laptop, he can send his work to the teachers and keep up with the class.”
And a Year 10 pupil in Cornwall said: “Thank you for my laptop – it has helped me loads. Completing work has been much easier than on my tiny phone screen. It has made a massive difference to me. I feel like everyone else in the class now.”
Kit4Kids has an initial target of £75,000 which would be enough to buy around 375 devices. If the campaign goes well it will set a stretch goal of £200,000. If this can be reached it is estimated that more than 1,000 children across Cornwall will benefit.
To support the campaign please visit the Kit4Kids Crowdfunder page.