Businesses and individuals across the county have delivered an overwhelming response to an appeal from schools for laptops and devices to help children and parents cope with home schooling.
Last month, #TechTogether was launched by Ben Thomas from All Things Business after an appeal from a local education trust was met with an offer from ACS in Northampton to provide the technical expertise to clean and prepare unwanted devices for schoolchildren to use.
Since the call first went out on January 11, nearly 200 laptops, tablets and iPads have been donated; some from businesses who were happy to pass on unwanted equipment, others from local residents and families who were happy to see an old or unused laptop being given a new lease of life.
Ben Thomas said: “It’s been fantastic to see the way people have responded. When we heard how desperate some families were for help with home schooling, how much they were struggling, we knew we had to do something, but we weren’t expecting anything like this.”
The appeal evolved from a conversation Ben had with Matt Coleman, Director of Primary Education at Nene Education Trust, a group of seven schools in East Northamptonshire.
In that interview, which went out on social media, Matt advised parents struggling with and feeling stressed about home schooling to set realistic goals, and to ‘just do their best’.
Then he added: “Parents are under so much pressure, especially when they have two or more children needing access to one device, or where they have no device at all. We would ask two things of business leaders – one is to be understanding and supportive towards staff who are having to home school, and the other is that if they have any devices – laptops, tablets or iPads – that they can donate to a local school to pass on to a family that is struggling, that would be fantastic.”
After watching the video of interview, Jon Thorpe from ACS on the Brackmills Industrial Estate contacted All Things Business to say that ACS engineers would offer their time, free of charge, to wipe clean any donated device under five or six years old so that it was ready for a child to use, clear of any data from the original owners.
“We just wanted to help in any way we can,” said Jon. “Why wouldn’t we? I’d heard things on the news, but I didn’t really appreciate the demand. Since then, we have seen people just turning up at ACS House, delivering product that we can give a second life to so that kids can learn.
“Our engineers will wipe them clean in line with data protection and then present them ready for a school to hand over to families that need them.”
Among the businesses that have donated to the cause are RVR Management in Northampton, BD Group in Blisworth and AMJ Construction in Long Buckby. Rotary e-Club District 1070 collected 21 devices to donate.
Devices have also been collected or dropped off by individuals, including 19-year-old Aaron Howard from Wellingborough, Mr and Mrs Tite from Wootton, Ezmai Kelly Hills, aged 10, from Great Harrowden, and Susan Berryman from Wellingborough.
As he received the first of the cleaned devices to hand out to the families who desperately needed them, Matt Coleman said: “We are now in a place where we are joining up education and business and finding that local businesses want to do what they can to help local schools. The response has been overwhelming.”
Looking at how the lessons of lockdown and the pandemic could help not only in the short term, but have lasting consequences, Ben Thomas said: “We called it #TechTogether because we felt that carried on the message from last year’s lockdowns about the strength of the local business community and the community in general about how we can work together to help each other.
“Business owners who are parents themselves will know how tough home schooling is. We’re not teachers, we’re just parents doing the best we can and it’s difficult enough even with the right resources.
“And looking long term, this might set a precedent. So in future, when businesses do need to replenish their stock of devices, rather than recycling the old ones, they might think about donating them to a school where they can be put to good use.”
If you have a device to donate, contact All Things Business on 01604 267677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like to donate money towards the cost of buying laptops, search #Techtogether for children’s learning on the Go Fund Me website.