Pupils from across the county have been given much-needed laptops to learn from home.
Almost £90,000 has been awarded to provide IT equipment to more than 300 children and young people, helping teaching to be carried out remotely.
Cumbria Community Foundation awarded the money to ten schools from various funds, including the Mary Grave Trust, the Printers Inc Social Mobility Fund and the Westmorland Family Community Fund.
The Mary Grave Trust would normally have supported young people travelling abroad through educational or youth group trips, work experience or gap year activities. Due to the current travel restrictions, the Foundation has instead used this funding to help young people study from home.
Many children and young people do not have access to a device that is suitable for remote learning. Netherhall School, St Joseph’s Catholic High School and Workington Academy were among the schools to identify pupils who were digitally excluded.
Denise Richardson, Deputy Head St Joseph's Catholic High School said: “On behalf of the school, we are delighted to have received a grant to purchase 24 laptops for students.”
“Our online school is working well and this equipment will help more students have their own laptop to access their live lessons and online work. It is vital for effective home learning that all our students have access to suitable devices. These laptops will also be used in school on our return, so that students can continue with online learning as a means of catching up on any work which they may have missed.”
Judith Schafer, chair of Cumbria Alliance of System Leaders, said: “The Cumbria Alliance of System Leaders launched a laptop for schools project in January to try and get IT kit to children who need it during the current lockdown. I am delighted that in response to this, schools have been supported by Cumbria Community Foundation.
“It’s so hard for students to engage in home learning without the right ICT equipment at home. Working from a smartphone or tablet is difficult, and even in homes where there is a computer, it may be being shared between siblings all trying to do lessons at the same time.
“Getting each child, that needs one, their own laptop will transform what they can achieve at home, and that is so important given the disruption students have already experienced and the uncertainty about the future. This funding from Cumbria Community Foundation will go a very long way to making sure we reach as many students as we can, as quickly as we can. It's also a long-lasting, as even when students return to the classroom, an increased reliance on IT may well be part of the learning experience in the future as part of the recovery curriculum schools will be working on. Giving every child access to the right IT kit long term is crucial.
Dr Jenny Benson, Director of Programmes and Partnerships at Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “The lack of access to digital technology for all pupils is demonstrating existing inequalities in households.
“The Government scheme for laptops has been effective for those identified as having low incomes or eligibility for free school meals. However, there are so many other families that do not fit the specified criteria. We are delighted that we have been able to use our funds to meet the changing needs and to support so many young people undertaking home schooling at this challenging time.”