Kirklees Council has announced that they have secured almost 4,000 pieces of vital I.T. equipment so that children and young people all over the district can learn at home and fulfil their potential.
The need to support education – and to provide opportunities for all – has been especially stark when schools have closed to most pupils during Covid-19 lockdowns.
So far, 3,857 laptops and tablets have been secured through a government scheme.
Much of the equipment has already been distributed to eligible children, including children with a social worker, young carers, children whose families receive certain benefits, care leavers and other disadvantaged school pupils.
It means children who didn’t have the right equipment can now take part in online learning and keep up with their work, especially if they aren’t in school due to lockdown.
Kirklees says that they have secured the most devices in the whole of Yorkshire and Humber, and the third most in the country.
‘Severe impact on vulnerable families’
Cllr Carole Pattison, the Cabinet member for Learning, Aspiration and Communities, said: “In Kirklees, we are fully committed to tackling inequality and helping our children and young people to have the best start in life.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had its most severe impact on vulnerable families and we are providing a huge range of support across our communities.
“We are making maximum use of the scheme to obtain and distribute I.T. equipment so that children and young people are helped to achieve good outcomes.”
Digital inequality continues to be a pressing issue both locally and nationally.
While the digital divide is not new – the ‘homework gap’ has been an issue for some time – it has been thrown into stark contrast in an age where most children will be learning from home for extended periods of time due to lockdowns and school closures.
Speaking on the issue, Cllr Pattison added: “The pandemic – in particular when the majority of pupils rely on home learning because they can’t go to school – has shown that digital inequality is a real issue, not just in Kirklees but around the country.
“In addition to this scheme, we’ve found other creative ways to support our most vulnerable children and young people.
“For example, pupils who are in care have been given the equipment they need, while we’ve also ensured every foster family in Kirklees can access high-quality I.T.”
Cllr Viv Kendrick, Cabinet Member for Children, said: “It’s critical that disadvantaged children can enjoy the same opportunities as their peers and aren’t forced to miss out because of their family circumstances.
“Working closely with our schools and other organisations, we have identified which children are in greatest need. Then, by securing and delivering equipment, we have continued to make a huge difference to local families.”
Cllr Kendrick praised schools across Kirklees for their quick response to government announcements about lockdowns, especially as most take immediate effect.
She added: “We’re proud of our work in helping disadvantaged children to aspire, achieve and fulfil their potential.”