Fashion giant Boohoo and anonymous benefactor give Mail Force campaign awesome lift

A sensational £1.25million in a single day was raised for Mail Force to help lockdown pupils yesterday.

Online fashion retailer Boohoo pledged a whopping £750,000 towards the ambitious campaign to get schoolchildren online. And a further £500,000 arrived from a generous benefactor who requested to remain anonymous.

On top of that, donations from Mail readers continued to flood in, including cheques and letters from retired teachers inspired to help the Computers for Kids drive.

It was the most successful fundraising day yet in an already phenomenal week. Some of Britain’s leading companies have thrown their weight behind the campaign, sending either cash or laptop computers.

Online fashion retailer Boohoo pledged a whopping £750,000 towards the Mail Force campaign to get schoolchildren online. Pictured: Boohoo chief executive officer John Lyttle

Online fashion retailer Boohoo pledged a whopping £750,000 towards the Mail Force campaign to get schoolchildren online. Pictured: Boohoo chief executive officer John Lyttle

Online fashion retailer Boohoo pledged a whopping £750,000 towards the Mail Force campaign to get schoolchildren online. Pictured: Boohoo chief executive officer John Lyttle

The Mail Force scheme involves laptops donated by companies which – for around £15 – can be securely wiped and refurbished for school use. 

We’re proud to play part in bridging the divide 

Online fashion seller Boohoo is on the up – having earlier this week bought the Debenhams brand.

Now, with a gift of £750,000 – the biggest yet – it is determined to boost the chances of lockdown children. Chief executive officer John Lyttle said: ‘Young people have felt some of the worst consequences of this pandemic, with their friendships and education significantly disrupted.

‘So many of us take having a laptop and access to wifi completely for granted, but for many families the lack of these things is creating a very real inequality.

‘We all have a role to play in supporting our young people and everyone at Boohoo is delighted to support the Mail’s campaign to tackle this divide – and ensure that every child in the country has access to the equipment they need to continue their education and stay connected with their friends and family.’

Boohoo was founded in Manchester in 2006 with a team of four people and now has a stable of ten brands, employing 8,000 people around the world.

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With schools shut until March 8 at the earliest, and as many as a third of UK families saying they do not have enough devices for their children to learn on, the need is urgent.

Gavin Williamson’s Department for Education is already completing a huge effort to get 1.3million computers to the neediest children – making it one of the biggest purchasers of laptops in the world.

The Mail Force initiative – to complement the Government’s drive – will add even more.

Last night, Boohoo Group’s chief executive John Lyttle said everyone at the company was ‘delighted’ to do their bit.

Yesterday’s other big benefactor wished to remain anonymous. But the philanthropic family’s stunning £500,000 donation has sent our campaign soaring.

More than £3.9million has now been raised in less than a week – and every single penny will be directly spent on getting stuck-at-home schoolchildren online.

Donations by our readers to our online giving page have topped £550,000 in just six days. With a further £250,000 in cheques, £25,000 in text message donations and £7,000 by phone, Mail readers have risen to the challenge in an extraordinary way.

A 96-year-old grandfather called Don donated £100 plus £25 in Gift Aid on Mail Force’s online giving page. He wrote: ‘All these lovely children are the future of our great country, so let’s give them all the help possible.’

Great-grandad Raymond Poole, who is in his 80s and donated £50, said: ‘As an octogenarian with nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, I want to support those who need help.’ 

Retired teacher Jan gave £50 and wrote: ‘No one should be without the tools required to enhance learning. Well done for ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to learn at home.’

Lloyds Banking Group has given the campaign 1,000 laptops and Sainsbury’s 2,000. Other big high street names have been in touch to offer second-hand machines.

Our IT specialist partner, which has contracts with blue chip firms and multinational investment banks, can turn them into home-schooling essentials in minutes. 

Good form: Now six Education Secretaries back Mail

By JOHN STEVENS POLITICAL EDITOR FOR THE DAILY MAIL

Six former Education Secretaries from across the political divide last night gave their backing to the Mail Force Computer for Kids campaign.

Tories Ken Clarke, Nicky Morgan, Justine Greening and Damian Hinds applauded the incredible generosity of Daily Mail readers.

They joined Labour’s David Blunkett and Alan Johnson, who have already spoken of the vital importance of getting laptops to children urgently so they can keep learning at home.

Lord Clarke, who served as education chief in John Major’s government in the 1990s, warned that many children face missing out completely on teaching without access to a computer.

‘Some children will cope with home schooling, but there is a proportion who just won’t. They won’t have the laptops… and will simply miss out,’ he said.

‘It will widen the gap between those with very good support at home and those who will end up with no education at all.’ The Tory grandee, 80, added: ‘I congratulate Mail readers for supporting this extremely good idea.’

Children face at least six more weeks at home after the reopening of schools was put back until March 8 at the earliest.

Baroness Morgan said: ‘It looks like we could be doing online schooling for a while longer so having access to a computer is absolutely vital to ensure all our children can continue to make progress.’

Miss Greening, who has campaigned on social mobility issues since leaving government, said: ‘This is a fantastic campaign to make sure that no children lose out on education because of not having the right technology.’

She urged more firms to help by handing over laptops they no longer use and added: ‘The Daily Mail campaign means we can get more laptops to more children who need them.’

Mr Hinds, who now sits on the Commons digital and culture committee, said: ‘I applaud generous Daily Mail readers for stepping up in this way.’

We’ve seen what a difference a laptop can make to a child’s life

By HELEN CARROL FOR THE DAILY MAIL

Although the Government has pledged to deliver 1.3million laptops to pupils – and has magnificently managed to send 800,000 already – the sheer scale of the shortage makes it a huge logistical challenge to get a device to every single child who needs one

Although the Government has pledged to deliver 1.3million laptops to pupils – and has magnificently managed to send 800,000 already – the sheer scale of the shortage makes it a huge logistical challenge to get a device to every single child who needs one

Although the Government has pledged to deliver 1.3million laptops to pupils – and has magnificently managed to send 800,000 already – the sheer scale of the shortage makes it a huge logistical challenge to get a device to every single child who needs one

Since Mail Force launched the Computers for Kids campaign last week, the response from our readers has been truly overwhelming.

Donations have flooded in from all across Britain, and every penny will make a huge difference to a child in need.

Although the Government has pledged to deliver 1.3million laptops to pupils – and has magnificently managed to send 800,000 already – the sheer scale of the shortage makes it a huge logistical challenge to get a device to every single child who needs one.

This is why Mail Force has stepped in to work alongside the Government and help secure more laptops and more funds so more children can receive the help they desperately need.

Here, three head teachers who know all too well the challenges pupils are facing explain what bridging the technology gap would mean for their schools…

A single mum of three was in tears…she’s only got one device for them all

Paul Gosling is head teacher of Exeter Road Community Primary School in Exmouth, Devon

Paul Gosling is head teacher of Exeter Road Community Primary School in Exmouth, Devon

Paul Gosling is head teacher of Exeter Road Community Primary School in Exmouth, Devon

There’s no doubt that the poorest children have been far more affected by these lockdowns due to their inability to access the learning.

Even in those families where there is a device, if there are several siblings, the ones in secondary school tend to be given priority access as more of their learning is now online.

Some 40 per cent of our children receive free school meals and, unsurprisingly, having a laptop for each child to access online learning is difficult for families who struggle to both eat and heat their homes.

HOW TO DONATE TO COMPUTERS FOR KIDS 

CLICK HERE 

TO DONATE 

TO YOU, THE READER: How to send us donations 

The Daily Mail has launched a brand new campaign, Computers For Kids, to raise money for Mail Force – a charity which aims to provide much needed school equipment and resources for pupils across the UK learning from home.

With schools closed, we are left with the dilemma of hundreds of thousands of pupils in the UK having no access to a computer in their home.

As part of this campaign, companies are donating their old laptops which, for around £15, can be wiped, professionally refurbished and made safe and fit for home schooling. They can then be delivered to a child or young person who needs one.

In addition, the campaign is looking to support children’s needs in other ways such as funding brand new laptops and tablets, and assisting with data access and connectivity for online learning. Any surplus funds will be used to support of the work of UK schools via other means.

TO MAKE A DONATION ONLINE

Visit mailforcecharity.co.uk/donate and follow the steps to complete your donation. 

Please don’t send us your old device.

TO MAKE A DONATION VIA YOUR PHONE

To donate £10 – text KIDS10 to 70115

To donate £20 – text KIDS20 to 70115 

TO COMPANIES: Could you give your old laptops?

Upgrading office computers is something all companies do from time to time – and there has never been a better time to donate old laptops. If you are a company with 50 laptops or more that you could give, please visit www.computacenter.com/daily-mail to check they are suitable and register your donation. We will arrange for collection by our specialist partners Computacenter. Please note: we cannot accept donated laptops from individuals.

COMPANIES SHOULD GO TO: computacenter.com/daily-mail 

TO SCHOOLS: Where to apply for the computers

Schools must apply to the Department for Education, which is managing the demand and prioritising the schools most in need. The Mail Force initiative means more laptops will become available more quickly.

SCHOOLS CAN APPLY HERE: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk

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Despite this, only two of our children – both of whom are in local authority care – qualified for devices through the Government scheme during the first lockdown. 

That leaves 15 per cent of our children – 30 pupils – who, either because of lack of a device or internet, cannot access any of the online learning we deliver. 

Meanwhile, 6 per cent of our pupils have no internet access at all as their families cannot afford wifi or a mobile phone package with data.

Inevitably, parents who cannot provide what their children need are experiencing guilt and anxiety – and their worries are passed on to their children.

One single mum with three children, aged five, nine and 13, was in tears because she was finding it impossible to ensure they could all access their learning. She has only one device in the house – a mobile phone with just 5GB of data a month. 

Then there’s a single dad of one of our 11-year-old pupils who doesn’t even have a mobile phone to which extra data could be added because he cannot afford one.

We suggested his daughter come into school but he is clinically vulnerable so is anxious about her picking up the virus and infecting him.

Schools can help bridge the inequalities that have been exacerbated by this reliance on technology – but it’s going to require considerably more funding.

One girl falling behind got a government laptop. Now she’s excelling in her class

It’s up to all of us, in true Blitz spirit, to keep working until there is not a single child in the country on the wrong side of this digital divide.

Our secondary school serves a broad range of families, and a third of our 600 pupils qualify for free school meals.

Most of our families prioritise their children’s education and have done whatever they can to give them access to online learning. All of our teaching is now live or pre-recorded, the next best thing to being in the classroom.

However, any parent is going to ensure their kids are fed before they think about getting them educated. So it’s a gargantuan task to get true equity through online education when there are some families who have so many struggles.

We’ve seen the difference a laptop can make to children who would not otherwise be able to access online learning.

One Year 10 girl – whose home life has been challenging and unsettled in recent years, meaning she has missed a lot of school – was given a government-issued laptop and access to wifi at the beginning of this term. 

She has attended every online lesson, every day, since. She has gone from being behind in all her subjects to meeting, or exceeding, her targets – something that would never have happened without this technology. It’s incredibly gratifying to see.

So far, we have been able to distribute 150 laptops to our students – nowhere near the number who meet the Government’s ‘disadvantaged’ criteria which entitles them to free school meals. 

Half of these were issued by the Government, the other half we have gone, cap in hand, to local businesses and the wonderful charity Keep Kids Connected to source.

I’m proud of what we have been able to achieve, but there are many more children we need to get the devices out to.

Then there’s the issue of internet access. Too many of our families cannot afford the data for their children to work online, so we are requesting support to be able to provide them with access to wifi.

With the right provision, we have seen what’s possible for these children.

Ash Ali is head teacher at Chessington School – a comprehensive for 11 to 16-year-olds in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London

Ash Ali is head teacher at Chessington School – a comprehensive for 11 to 16-year-olds in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London

Ash Ali is head teacher at Chessington School – a comprehensive for 11 to 16-year-olds in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London

147 of our families have no computer of wifi at all

We’re concerned about the widening gaps in learning between the haves and the have-nots and the effect on our children in both the short and long term.

Across our schools we have 147 families who have no laptop or desktop computer and no access to wifi. Many of these children do not qualify for government help as they are not classed as ‘disadvantaged’.

And the numbers affected continue to increase daily, as more learning goes online and mobile phone Sim cards run out of data. 

Some broadband providers are giving free wifi to families who need it, but it’s nowhere near enough, especially for those with more than one child.

Liz Cresswell was a head teacher for 12 years and is now director of Valley Learning Partnership in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. She oversees two secondary schools and three primary schools

Liz Cresswell was a head teacher for 12 years and is now director of Valley Learning Partnership in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. She oversees two secondary schools and three primary schools

Liz Cresswell was a head teacher for 12 years and is now director of Valley Learning Partnership in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. She oversees two secondary schools and three primary schools

There’s more and more pressure on schools to deliver live lessons because people can see they work well, but that means children who cannot access them are becoming increasingly marginalised.

These are often kids who, in part due to existing struggles at home, are the least engaged in education even in normal times and now, sadly, they have a reason to not engage.

Heartbreakingly, most are not complaining to their teachers about it, they’re just resigned to their situation.

Those who have qualified for government help so far had to fit the definition of ‘disadvantaged’ – a fifth of the children in Calderdale – which means they have received free school meals or are a looked-after child in local authority care.

But we have hundreds who are not classed as disadvantaged but do not have enough devices for all of their children.

The effect of the growing digital divide that we are witnessing will be felt for some time. 

And we refuse to turn a blind eye to the families who are having to choose between putting food on the table and buying data so that their children have the same opportunities academically as their classmates.

In our efforts to stem this inequality, we have been awarded a £30,000 grant from Calderdale Council and the Calderdale Community Foundation.

We have also set up a crowdfunding page, which has so far raised £1,320.

  • All donations are gratefully received, visit: www.rocketfund.org/end-the- digital-divide-for-calderdale-pupils

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