Published On: 22nd June 2022

A Hertfordshire education organisation has received 50 laptops and 50 prepaid sim cards from The Access Foundation, a charitable organisation set up to help tackle the UK’s digital divide and to provide IT equipment and internet access to children whose families don’t have a computer for them to use.

Hertfordshire Virtual School is an initiative from Hertfordshire County Council to help children and young people who are under their care enhance their opportunities in education and future prospects. Last year it expanded its services to all children who are working with social workers so that they can also benefit from more support in their education and progress further than they do currently.

The donation of the laptops and sim cards is the first example of the ongoing partnership between The Access Foundation and Softcat Plc to refurbish and recycle IT equipment and supply it to organisations in need.

Felicity Evans, Headteacher of Hertfordshire Virtual School, said during the pandemic many children faced significant disadvantages and barriers to education due to limited financial resources. This included a lack of access to the internet and working computers as online learning became more common and children were required to carry out all their homework and research online.

She added: “During the pandemic many children without such equipment and resources were relying on the use of their parents’ mobile phone to complete their schoolwork and for those whose parents only had occasional credit for their phone, schoolwork was not possible.
“We are very grateful to the Access Foundation for this support that will enable hundreds of children to make the most of their learning opportunities.”

The Access Foundation was established last year to support organisations in the UK, Europe and Asia-Pacific who are focused on mitigating the digital divide through facilities and learning. It was set up after research from the Social Mobility Commission, State of the Nation Report 2021 showed that when the pandemic hit in 2020, it was the UK’s poorest households who were excluded the most from the digital world with no access to internet or devices at home.

In March, The Access Foundation announced its initial round of grants totalling £269,000 to benefit disadvantaged students and local businesses to ensure they are not left behind in the digital world.

As the second round of donations and grants are handed out, Piers McLeish, Trustee of The Access Foundation said he was delighted to be able to offer more help to young people and adults to ensure they have the technology they need to succeed in their education.

He added: “The Access Foundation’s main aim is to address digital inequalities and make sure that young people have access to technologies to ensure they have the same opportunities as everyone else, regardless of their postcode or background.

“Digital access and skills are crucial in enabling young people to fully engage in today’s increasingly digitalised society and we hope the donation of laptops and sim cards to the Hertfordshire Virtual School will give the children the equipment they need to thrive in their education and future ambitions.

“In turn we hope our partnership with Softcat Plc will provide more IT refurbished equipment to organisations and ensure no-one is left behind in the digital age.”

Earlier this year, another educational establishment, Loughborough University, received £269,000 of funding from The Access Foundation to offer young people scholarships to its computer courses.

As part of the second wave of funding the university will be handed a further £153,112 to fund its ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ project, which will help disadvantaged 11-18 year olds achieve their potential through digital enablement.

For more information, read about the Access Foundation here.