Free laptops for Shadwell pupils to get online

Smiles all round as pupils at Blue Gate Fields Infants in Shadwell get their free laptops

Smiles all round as pupils at Blue Gate Fields Infants in Shadwell get their free laptops. - Credit: LBTH

A batch of free laptops have been provided for schoolchildren in Shadwell to get them online.

The delivery marks the 110,000th device delivered up and down the country by the National Grid for Learning since the outbreak of Covid-19. 

The devices were given to 12 lucky pupils at Blue Gate Fields Infants by the not-for-profit organisation in a deal with Tower Hamlets Council aimed eventually at reaching all youngsters in the East End. 

“We’re working to get every child online,” Mayor John Biggs said. “I know what a difference is made by having access to a laptop or tablet.  

“We’ve been distributing devices and lobbying the government for more funding. It’s vital that we get every child online and end the digital disadvantage in education.” 

Blue Gate Field's seven-year-old pupil Mariam gets her own laptop from mayor John Biggs

Seven-year-old pupil Mariam gets her laptop from mayor John Biggs. - Credit: LBTH

Access to online learning was an essential requirement during lockdown for many who could not continue their education in the classroom.  

It remains vital despite schools reopening in March “to ensure opportunity and access are spread equally”, the authority maintains. 

Donations totalling £1,300 to Every Child Online paid for seven devices at Blue Gate Fields while the town hall chipped in to pay for another five. 

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Headteacher Catherine Jones said: “These will have a genuine and life-changing impact on our youngsters and open up new avenues of learning and opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have.” 

Can't wait to get them home... children at Blue Gate Field school with their new laptops.

Children at Blue Gate Fields Infants with their laptops. - Credit: LBTH

The National Grid organisation, the second largest distributor of devices to schools after the Department for Education, has been critical about slow access to technology for youngsters during the pandemic.

It had made a massive #BridgeTheDivide purchase of devices at a big discount with savings passed on to local authorities like Tower Hamlets at cut rates.  

The organisation’s Richard Martin said: “We always seek to help wherever we can to give schools what they need to support teaching and learning that improves the life chances of their pupils. 

“Delivering to Blue Gate Fields Infants marks the 110,000th device we’ve provided to schools and local authorities.”  

The Council has estimated an extra 10,000 laptops were needed on top of the 10,383 the government has already provided.

But the Conservative group on the council said it was "disappointed" that Labour voted in March against a Tory proposal to spend £1.6m on 8,000 more laptops "which would have bridged the digital divide". The council had bought just 300 devices.