East Midlands Chamber has urged businesses to donate spare IT equipment to homeworking parents who may be unable to afford laptops or tablets for their children.
With schools closed during the third national lockdown, it means many employees must balance work with childcare duties.
But after concerns have been raised that not everyone can afford the necessary equipment for online homeschooling, the Chamber says there will be some companies that can step in to offer support – and it may even bring benefits to their business.
Director of resources Lucy Robinson said: “It’s become increasingly clear throughout this pandemic that Covid-19 is only serving to widen gaps between people according to their socioeconomic groups.
“We absolutely must not allow this to also lead to a widening of the education gap as there’s plenty of evidence to show how important a decent education is to setting children up for a good career – enabling them to contribute to the local economy in future.
“There will be many businesses that have spare laptops and other IT equipment lying around offices unused as a result of either temporary or permanent reduction in headcounts. We would encourage companies to help out by either loaning or donating kit to their own employees who fall into this category, or to schools and dedicated charities.
“Such actions can form a key part of CSR activity, which we’ve seen is becoming increasingly vital to employees who want to work for organisations that share their values, while it could also improve productivity as we’re hearing more and more about disruption to business as a result of homeschooling.”
Chamber donates laptops to Chesterfield school
The Chamber will deliver eight laptops, eight computer towers and eight monitors this week to Ashover Primary School, based near the organisation’s Chesterfield head office, following on from a donation of 12 laptops and three towers last year.
The Friends of Ashover Primary School group has helped to wipe the equipment and certify the destruction to maintain the Chamber’s data security compliance.
The school’s headteacher Sue Myhill said: “This gesture has really cheered us up at what is an incredibly challenging time for everyone.”
Some 47 laptops have also been donated to the Derbyshire, Leicestershire & Rutland Air Ambulance charity’s IT recycling service since December 2019.
Lucy added: “During 2020/21, we made significant investment in upgrading a large amount of IT equipment that was either outdated, not fit for its designed purpose or required repair.
Rather than send usable equipment to landfill, we decided to repurpose and donate it to good causes.”
Chamber member donates to Derby-based not-for-profit
Heanor-based bus operator trentbarton, which provides services in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, has donated two laptops to Enterprise for Education (E4E).
The group is a not-for-profit public-private sector partnership based within Derby City Council’s education department that aims to mobilise the city’s workforce to help young people prepare for both life beyond school and the world of work.
Jeff Counsell, managing director at trentbarton, said: “Like many businesses, we have been moved by hearing about children unable to do as much remote schoolwork as they need during lockdown.
“Some are struggling to do any and some families with more than one school-age child face added difficulties.
“We are pledging our support by donating laptops for the children of families in our community and we urge any other businesses that can do likewise to join in.”
Arshad Iqbal is programme leader for E4E, which works with Chamber members such as the University of Derby, Rolls-Royce, Freeths and Bowmer + Kirkland to support every secondary school in Derby and a number of primary schools.
He said: “There’s a lot of talk that schools will remain closed beyond the February half-term and yet there’s young people at home who don’t have access to a laptop or broadband – meaning they have a fundamental barrier to education.
“In many cases, there’s two children in a household in different age groups, but one laptop between them – and there’s one school we work with where there’s five children sharing a single laptop.
“This makes it difficult not to just access the normal school provision, but also extra educational resources, such as those offered by the BBC and the employers we work with that are trying to encourage more children to take STEM subjects from a young age.”
Arshad said there’s plenty of research that highlights the correlation between doing well at school and having a successful career, while a 2017 study from the Education and Employers charity found that students who had at least four encounters with employers before leaving school would be 86% less likely to become a so-called “Neet” – not in education, employment or training.
He added: “We’re asking businesses if they would be able to donate an old laptop or, alternatively, sponsor the purchase of a new one, offering one small step towards these young people accessing the education we know is so important to success in later life.”