Businesses donate £120,000 to lockdown education initiative

A collection of Lancashire organisations has donated a package of support worth £118,000 to help children stay connected during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Connecting Kids initiative helps children in low-income households to keep up with their studies while schools remain closed.

The programme was orchestrated by a consortium of education providers across Lancaster and Morecambe, including Lancaster University, Lancaster & Morecambe College, Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership, local schools and Eden Project International, together with Lancaster City Council and local businesses.

Children across the region have been provided with internet access and digital devices, as well as tailored tuition delivered by up to 300 Lancaster University student mentors.

University academics are also working to produce activity boxes which will be delivered to hundreds of homes, including fun and educational challenges. Resource packs of stationary - donated by the University, businesses and through a substantial contribution by high street chain store Wilko - are to be sent to thousands more.

Among the organisations which made substantial donations to the initiative are the Banks Lyon Memorial Trust, West Lancashire Freemasons, The Learning Foundation working in partnership with The National Grid, EDF, Santander Bank and Lancaster City Council.  Vodafone is providing more than 350 Unlimited Data SIMs so pupils can easily access the internet.

Children who are entitled to free school meals achieve far lower outcomes nationally compared to their peers.

Victoria Michael, principal of the Morecambe Bay Academy, said: "Digital poverty means having no access to online education, because there is no device or internet connection in the family home. These items are expensive and many local children were sent home with some photocopied work packs and no access to anything else. 

"Educationally, those children who are entitled to free school meals achieve far lower outcomes nationally compared to their peers. This pandemic is widening that gap daily as some children still have access to learning and some do not. 

“This is why Connecting Kids is so important. Local businesses and Lancaster University have worked together with school leaders to try and solve this problem quickly. We think this will make a real difference to the families involved and enable the students to stay connected with their schools, and each other.

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