Laptop donations still wanted to help Suffolk children long term
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A campaign for people to donate unwanted laptops and tablets for school children will continue despite the return of children to classrooms next week, as part of efforts to address digital poverty long-term.
The IT Kit for Kids campaign was launched by Suffolk County Council and the Creative Computing Club in Ipswich to help collect unused laptops, tablets and other IT equipment and donate them to youngsters learning from home during the Covid-19 lockdown who may not have such access to key devices.
Children return to school from March 8, but education bosses have urged people to continue donating equipment so that youngsters can still benefit, with wider uses beyond just school work.
Conservative cabinet member for education at Suffolk County Council, Mary Evans, said: "The immediate pressure is reduced as kids go back to school, but through the holidays it is needed.
"It is not just about school, it is the extra-curricular stuff. We are trying to make this a really comprehensive response to Covid, and make it so we are addressing the digital divide across the county .There is the immediate gap for those children learning from home, but it is also picking it up and taking it forward."
Around 50 items have been donated to date, with private individuals and businesses refreshing their equipment being encouraged to share items no longer needed.
Meanwhile, the county council continues to dish out equipment from the Department for Education scheme, which has now totalled more than 1,200 computers and 1704G devices in the county. Those have been prioritised for vulnerable children and low income families.
Graham Beamish, head of programmes in the county council's children's and young people's department, said: "This is not just about Covid, it has really brought home that long term a bit of a digital divide exists.
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"We think having half a dozen computers or mobile phones at home is perfectly normal, but some haven't got one or all of those devices, some haven't got Wi-Fi.
"It has really brought home to us how important it is for children to be able to access that stuff, including for things like any catch-up learning and engage in all sorts of other activities that is not just about school - to get on with their lives, stay in touch with friends and families, and pursue those hobbies.
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"Some young people may be less academically inclined, but some of their talent and creativity through music and animation and so much of that multimedia stuff you need computers for."
Jack Abbott, education spokesman from the county council's opposition Labour group, said: "The Creative Computing Club has made an incredible contribution in supporting children and young people throughout this pandemic, and their refurbishment and redistribution of unwanted computers has been hugely welcome.
"However, the digital divide won't simply end with the full reopening of schools. The work that we need to do to close the education gap will take years and there will remain a major disparity among pupils when it comes to access to equipment and the internet.
"That is why Suffolk County Council should be ambitious and make IT Kit for Kids permanent by providing long-term funding to guarantee that every pupil in Suffolk has access to a laptop and the internet."
To make a donation of a laptop or a financial contribution, visit the website here.