Trafford’s Labour Group is appealing to businesses for donations of laptops and tablets to help the borough’s most vulnerable children access online learning.

Trafford Council leader, Cllr Andrew Western, has written to business leaders locally to ask if they are able to provide support to the borough’s young people amid fears many schoolchildren are being deprived of their education during lockdown because they don’t have access to digital equipment.

Cllr Western argues that a piecemeal handout of a few laptops from central government is not enough to support the need created by the closure of schools.

“Digital inclusion for children learning at home is a very real and serious problem at the moment,” said Cllr Western.

“The Government has said schools are vectors for virus transmission so I wanted to do something to help children learn safely from home in a way that minimises the impact on their education.

“Over the past week a number of concerned parents have contacted me to say they don’t have the necessary IT equipment needed for their child to access lessons and work in a timely way.

“Parents say they either don’t have a device or they don’t have enough devices to make this practical: I know of one family of five where both parents are working from home – they have three laptops but are using two for work meaning three kids are having to share one device.

“While I know some children will receive a laptop through the government scheme, for the majority of families that won’t be the case.

“Many are really struggling to cope without adequate technology – and the impact of that on children’s learning could be huge.

“This will rapidly become a major equalities issues with some children at risk of being left behind.

“That is why I have appealed to Trafford’s business community for help to provide laptops for learners – I know it’s a really difficult time for many businesses but I hope those who are able to help will be willing to do so.”

Stretford and Urmston MP, Kate Green, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, expressed her support for the initiative and concern for the situation.

“This is a brilliant idea and I really hope the business community in Trafford can help,” said Ms Green.

“I know many families in Stretford and Urmston who are struggling to cope without adequate IT at home and this will make a real difference if successful.

“It’s devastating that schools have had to close to most pupils and we all want children to be able to keep up with their learning as best as possible in the weeks ahead.

“I congratulate our Labour Council on launching the ‘Laptops for Learners’ scheme that puts the needs of Trafford’s young people first at such a critical time.”

One parent, Charlotte from Stretford, who raised the issue with Cllr Western explained: “I have one laptop which I need to use for work and now also for my daughter’s home learning.

“School are putting on a daily schedule for us to follow which is great, but when I’m working too it’s not possible to both use the same device.

“The reality of this is that everything suffers.

“Work productivity goes down and stress and guilt go up – and I imagine if you don’t have an understanding employer then worries about job security will also increase.

“I know the criteria has been changed by Government to say children without IT access can go into school if needed, but this is in the same week we’ve been told schools are vectors for the virus by the Prime Minister and we are hearing that demand for places in primary schools is enormous. Something needs to be done to help children learn from home more effectively.”

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