Published: 31 March 2021
Westminster City Council has reached an incredible milestone as 5,000 laptops and tablets have now been delivered to disadvantaged children and young people.
When schools closed during the first COVID-19 national lockdown in March last year, it became clear there was a digital divide between children with many not having access to their own device to complete home learning. Around nine per cent of children in the UK, around 1.1 million to 1.8 million, do not have access to a laptop or device at home, according to Ofcom. Applied to Westminster, this also meant we had an initial target of around 2,000 devices that might be needed by our young people - a target we have now met more than twice over.
During the first lockdown, we distributed more than 760 devices to children and families and made sure they had internet connectivity to complete their school work.
To further tackle digital exclusion in Westminster, we set up the Digital Futures scheme with the Young Westminster Foundation through an ambitious partnership between local charities, businesses and schools aiming to provide devices and connectivity to communities.
The council directly funded hundreds of units and more devices were made available by reconditioning laptops kindly donated by Vodafone, Westminster Housing and others.
Thousands more laptops have also been distributed to Westminster schools direct from the Department for Education, adding up to more than 5,000 devices - a major investment in digital learning across Westminster schools.
Sarah Newman, Westminster City Council Executive Director for Children’s Services, said:
“With schools closed to many of our children, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic emphasised the digital divide between some of our families and we’ve worked hard to minimise the disadvantages that some young people may have faced by ensuring they have a device to use at home.
"Reducing digital exclusion has been a top priority since the first national lockdown where we immediately distributed hundreds of laptops and I’m thrilled 5,000 children and young people who attend our fantastic Westminster schools, including those living in other boroughs, received the equipment they needed to progress further in their school work.”
Louisa Lochner, Headteacher of recipient school Gateway Academy said:
“These devices will revolutionise our children’s learning, both now and in the future, setting our children on a pathway to success.”