Microsoft has joined the government’s Get Help with Technology initiative, providing laptops and tablets for disadvantaged children and young people to aid remote education.
The £126m scheme to supply 500,000 devices was announced in October 2021, the latest step in a programme that had already seen the distribution of 1.3m tablets and laptops since the start of the pandemic.
A range of Windows-based devices can now be ordered by schools, colleges and councils.
Schools may no longer be in lockdown, but the demand for remote learning remains high. Government figures at the end of January showed that an estimated 5.1% of all state school pupils in England – around 415,000 children – were at home because of coronavirus.
Besides pandemic-related help, the Get Help with Technology scheme has been helping councils allocate devices to children recently arrived from Afghanistan, helping them adjust to life in England and supporting their education.
“The pandemic has created unique challenges for schools, colleges and universities across the UK,” said Chris Rothwell, director of education for Microsoft UK. “While nothing will fully replicate the classroom environment, it’s vital that pupils who are unable to attend lessons are able to continue their learning at home.
“We have joined the Get Help with Technology initiative to ensure that young people have powerful, safe and secure devices they can use to connect with their friends, teachers and support networks.”
One of the organisations to benefit from the initiative is the REAch2 Academy Trust, the biggest primary-only academy trust in the country. Many of its 60 schools serve places with particular need for help with remote devices, such as disadvantaged inner-city areas and coastal towns with high levels of deprivation.
REAch2 has received 4,090 laptops via Get Help with Technology and ordered more devices and routers to help children who unable to attend classes in person.
“Our pupils will use these devices in classrooms and for remote learning, either as a class or individually,” said the trust’s head of IT, Adele Kane.
“[The technology] can provide alternative ways to support educational needs, break down barriers and support inclusion. Children love to connect and collaborate with their friends via Teams, for example. Teachers can embed technology into their lessons, and the digital skills that pupils are learning today will support them in the future.”