Amidst the pandemic, trying to attend school from home has proven to be quite the challenge. In light of this, the Oxford City Council has donated 50 laptops to a local project, Educate 200.

Educate 200 works with local IT provider Planet IT and The Oxford Academy to provide students with refurbished laptops. The City Council are hoping to donate over 200 laptops in total and are initially trying to check that these laptops are able to be refurbished and repurposed before distributing them to other schools in the city.

Planet IT have additionally committed to donating a Chromebook for every two laptops contributed in order to expand access and ease of online learning. The coronavirus pandemic has meant many students are having to share devices with multiple siblings or even with working parents. As a result, students’ education often suffers and they sometimes have to resort to using a phone for their schoolwork.

Since the start of the lockdown, laptop donation has been taking place across the country as a way to help pupils keep up with their education at home. The BBC’s Make a Difference Give a Laptop campaign has been leading the way, while locally initiatives such as Witney ALBS (Access to Learning Beyond School) and companies such as OX IT Solutions have also helped to tackle the issue in Oxfordshire.

Parts of Oxford are significantly disadvantaged with 10 out of the 83 total neighbourhoods forming part of the 20% most deprived areas in England. These problems are further exacerbated by the lack of technology and internet access, so laptops and tablets can help to tackle some of these structural barriers to education.

The Co-Founder and Managing Director of PlanetIT Sean Smith said: “We’re really grateful we’re able to help and utilise our client base.  Hopefully this can be a sustainable solution for our local schools, the Council and Planet IT.” 

Councillor Marie Tidball, the Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities, also added: “Too many children have already missed out on education in this pandemic because the government support has been too slow to reach those in need. We are fortunate to have a local business with the skills and local knowledge to help tackle the issue, but it shouldn’t be down to them. Our support for their Education 200 project means together we can fast-track laptops to those that need them, helping hundreds of students. In only a month since the government changed its schools policy to remote teaching, the Council, Planet IT and The Oxford Academy have worked quickly to address the technology gap. There is a lot more to be done, but we’re making progress and will continue to work with schools and young people to find new ways to  support those students who have been the worst affected by the pandemic.”