The Coronavirus pandemic and the enforced school closures it has brought have heightened the digital divide that exists between schoolchildren across the local area. Partnering with key local organisations, Lancaster University has taken huge steps towards redressing this balance. Working alongside a number of educational providers, the University has helped to launch the ‘Connecting Kids’ campaign, which seeks to deliver equal educational opportunities for all children across the Lancaster and Morecambe Bay community.
Working with Professor Dame Sue Black, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Engagement, Lancaster’s Development & Alumni Relations team co-ordinated a fundraising effort that secured over £120,000 from local charitable foundations, businesses and individuals. Our donors share the University’s determination to ensure that as many children as possible in our region have equal access to the resources needed to make the transition from the classroom to the kitchen table seamless.
The project has supplied stationery, internet access and digital devices to children lacking access to these resources, to ensure they have the best opportunities to continue their schoolwork at home during periods of Covid-19 lockdown or restricted school access. In addition to this, Lancaster has offered the services of student mentors to ensure that no child falls behind whilst schools remain closed.
Since launching in April, the campaign has provided almost 500 laptops and internet connections to students in secondary and further education, also delivering over 1600 stationery packs to primary school children. Plans are already in place to deliver more activity and support in the autumn term, to allow for flexible learning conditions as the countries response to Covid-19 continues.
A number of organisations, including the Banks Lyon Memorial Trust, West Lancashire Freemasons Charity, Vodafone, EDF, Santander Bank and Lancaster City Council have made substantial donations, which have contributed to the swift success of the campaign. In addition to this, many of these firms have contributed the equipment being delivered to schoolchildren; for example, Vodafone provision of 350 Unlimited Data SIMs, allowing pupils easy access to the internet at home.
The need for the campaign is perfectly encapsulated by this parent form Central Lancaster High School who describes the challenges she and her four children have faced during the Coronavirus lockdown:
“When the school contacted me to ask how we were coping with lockdown I openly said ‘We’re not!’ Trying to get my kids to do schoolwork on an old laptop was really stressful for everyone. The internet kept zoning out and the kids argued about whose turn it was to use the laptop. My oldest son is in Year 10 and was really stressing about getting behind in his GCSEs. In the end, for his own sanity, I told him to stop trying to use the laptop. The school sent paper packs which helped to ease his mind, but he still felt that he was missing out. Getting a new laptop and proper internet connection has been life changing. My son’s stress levels have dropped. He’s been able to do the work set by his teachers, send it to them and email them if he’s stuck. I know it’s not as good as being in school and in his lessons, but he has become more motivated and independent”.
The campaign has also caught the eye of Cat Smith, Member of Parliament for Lancaster and Fleetwood, who described Connecting Kids as a “fantastic initiative and an amazing example of what can be achieved through an enthusiastic and committed partnership”.
As home schooling continues throughout the area, the fundraising team at Lancaster University will remain committed to supporting this important project as it evolves beyond the period of Covid-19. Closing the digital divide and providing equal educational opportunity to all children is an important objective that must remain high on our fundraising agenda.
For any further information about the campaign please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.Back to News