Hackney Council has put out a call to local residents and businesses for spare laptops for pupils in the borough without access to computers at home.
The appeal follows reports last month from the Education Endowment Foundation that the likely impact of lockdown could see the reversal of a decade’s progress in tackling educational inequality – news that left listening councillors “distressed”.
According to Hackney Learning Trust figures, 10 per cent of the borough’s children have no devices at all, with 15 per cent sharing too much or having no access to enough bandwidth to be able to access educational materials.
Schools have been able to temporarily loan equipment, with The Bridge Academy, for instance, understood to have sent out around 200, and a scheme from central government providing about 1,500 computers.
The council says there is still around 4,000 pupils believed to not have sufficient access to ICT facilities at home.
Deputy Mayor Anntoinette Bramble, who leads on education for the Town Hall, said: “The coronavirus pandemic really highlighted the digital divide that exists between those young people who have their own computer and those who do not have access to one at home at all.
“The government scheme set up to provide pupils with laptops just wasn’t sufficient, and schools have been forced to loan equipment – some have even raised funds to purchase some laptops to begin to meet the need. The Mayor and I have written to the Government to ask for more, but we cannot wait for them to act.
“We know that when schools return in September there will be continued emphasis on online learning and homework, and we want to make sure that none of our pupils are disadvantaged by that.
“This is a really important opportunity for us to come together and demonstrate how the Hackney Spirit can make a real difference for children in the borough.”
Bramble added that donated devices will be “wiped clean” of any data on them, and once received will be distributed through schools to ensure “they reach those who need them most”, while adding that financial donations to buy refurbished computers are also welcomed.
There are a number of minimum requirements for donated devices, including that they be no older than from 2008, be in good physical order with working chargers, have built-in wifi and webcams, and a minimum of 2GB RAM and 16GB on the hard disk.
After completing a donation form (details below), drop-offs can be made either at BSix College on Kenninghall Road (Wednesdays 9am-5pm, and, from 17 August, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm), or at the Hackney Service Centre on Hillman Street (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm).
More details on how to donate can be found here hackney.gov.uk/laptops