Laptop campaign saves school's online learning from 'point of desperation'

Mel Fearns, headteacher at St George's Primary School in Great Yarmouth, with pupils. Picture: Victo

Mel Fearns, headteacher at St George's Primary School in Great Yarmouth, with pupils. Picture: Victoria Pertusa - Credit: Archant

A primary school headteacher has said the need for laptops at her school had reached a "point of desperation" before receiving 78 devices from the Every Child Online campaign.

Mel Fearns, headteacher at St George's Primary School in Great Yarmouth, said most of her pupils had either no access or restricted to online learning before receiving the laptops.

During the first lockdown the school was forced to use work packs for home schooling due to the lack of well equipped households.

Ms Fearns said: "Three weeks ago over the Christmas holidays I had about 39 devices in the school and we've got almost 270 children and about a third of the children didn't have any access to anything.

"Another third had one device in the house and that would probably be a phone and the last third probably had a tablet or device that was shared among three, so we had very few households properly equipped.

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool.

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"I was at a point of desperation, the government then changed its mind and gave us an allocation of 44 which I'd been trying to get my hands on since last July, because they originally turned it down to nine.

"Obviously we were still in a situation where we didn't have enough so I was short of between 70 and 90 devices up until Wednesday of this week when we received 78 devices through Every Child Online."

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She said online learning was impossible without the correct equipment.

Ms Fearns backed the Every Child Online campaign: "Our online learning looks like a classroom, it's absolutely essential this campaign that the EDP and Norfolk County Council are running.

"They are so disadvantaged when they don't have access, digital poverty in this day and age is massive, access for every child is something we need to aim for not only as a county but as a nation even after COVID."

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool.

The Every Child Online campaign has hit almost 5,000 laptops. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Labour county councillor Mike Smith-Clare said: "Digital poverty represents one of the biggest barriers to lockdown learning for so many young people living in our county.

"I’m grateful that something is finally being done to address this problem.”

Those wishing to donate equipment to the Every Child Online campaign should email devices@norfolk.gov.uk.

To donate funds click here.

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