Generous businesses, organisations and individuals have come together to support hundreds of disadvantaged children across the Exeter area in a fantastic display of unity.
In just 10 days, a total of almost £30,000 has been raised to buy devices for children most in need and most at risk of falling behind in their education due to the pandemic. Now, thanks to that generosity, primary schools in Exeter and children attending the Cranbrook Education Campus will be able to access a library of devices which will be loaned to children who are learning from home.
Research conducted by the city council’s Liveable Exeter Education Recovery Group revealed that five per cent of children in Exeter’s primary schools don’t have access to broadband, and 12 per cent don’t have access to a suitable device for learning. Of those that do have a suitable device, often this is shared with other children, making access to learning limited.
Glenn Woodcock, chair of the Education Recovery Group, said: ‘We’re delighted to have already delivered the first devices to schools in the city. Massive thanks to all that have donated to this extremely valuable cause, from individuals to local businesses. This coming together of our community is really something very special, of which we should all be very proud.’
Rachel Shaw, chief executive of Exeter Learning Academy Trust, said they were thrilled with the support that all of the city’s schools had received through the appeal. She added: 'I had the pleasure of popping into a school leaders’ meeting and telling them the good news, they were delighted that the city was working in this way to support their families. It’s not only showing our families how much the city cares but also giving our school leaders a real boost at time when they most need it.’
Teacher Ben Prosser, year 5 and 6 team leader and English lead at Exwick Heights Primary School, welcomed the donations, saying they would have a huge impact. He said: ‘I can really see that the attainment gap has drastically widened for disadvantaged pupils. It’s desperately unfair as those children already face adverse difficulties, and now their future has been impacted and put in jeopardy from missing such a large chunk of their education. If we can provide the pupils in need with devices, it will go a long way to reducing the gap, ensuring a better future for them and our community and city.’
The campaign received a huge boost thanks to a £10,000 donation from Exeter City Council’s winter Covid-19 support fund, via funding the council has received from the Howmet Aerospace Foundation, as well as money from Devon County Council’s fund for vulnerable people.
Cllr Amal Ghusain, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Culture and Communities, said: ‘It’s vital that children in our communities are given equal opportunities to learn. This initiative, made possible thanks to very generous support of our sponsors, will make a huge difference with families who are struggling to make ends meet.’
A spokesman for the Howmet Aerospace Foundation said: ‘We are delighted to be able to help the local community during these difficult times. This opportunity will assist our younger generation to continue home schooling, when attending school is not possible, and ensures that learning is not interrupted by the lack of funding.’
Construction consultancy SDS, who have offices in Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol, also backed the campaign with a donation. James Laughlin, regional director of the Exeter office, said: ‘The pandemic has opened people's eyes to digital poverty, and the devastating impact on young children with the way we teach and learn in 2020. All children should have equal opportunities and support to learn. As a company we had identified this as an area that we should support, so were delighted when we found an initiative supporting local Exeter children.’
Annette Richman, managing director of KOR Communications, explained why they had decided to support the campaign: ‘One major impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is a gaping hole in the education of many young people, especially those who have had limited, or no access to technology, software or broadband. When it comes to home learning, technology is a basic need, not a privilege, but it is our privilege as a local business to be able to support this need in Exeter.’
The new library of devices will be managed by the Ted Wragg Trust. They will be made available to all Exeter primary schools and pupils attending Cranbrook Education Campus.
Moira Marder, chief executive of the Ted Wragg Trust, said: ‘The values of the Ted Wragg Trust are to ensure equal access to education for all, and this appeal upholds those values. The impact of the pandemic will not be felt equally by all children. Those that cannot access remote learning will be negatively impacted, and irreversibly so and this will help to alleviate that inequality.’
To donate to the campaign visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ipadsforchildreninexeter