Firm's boost means Mail Force push for pupil laptops hits £5.6m

Another fantastic £500k! Firm’s boost means Mail Force push to get laptops for pupils hits £5.6m… as one teenager reveals how a donated computer gave her a future

  • The Mail’s campaign has attracted support from readers and big firms alike
  • Laptops are already being handed out to pupils who desperately need them  
  • The Mail Force charity will also use funds to buy new devices for schoolchildren 

In a boost for British children, one of the country’s most successful online retailers pledged a whopping £500,000 to Mail Force yesterday.

The Hut Group’s donation sends our campaign to help pupils in lockdown get online soaring to £5.6million in just a week.

Laptops are already being handed out to schoolchildren who desperately need them to follow online lessons.

The Mail’s Computers for Kids campaign has attracted extraordinary support from readers and big firms alike, with high street bank Santander also joining in yesterday.

For as little as £15, a laptop has its memory securely wiped and it is rebuilt for the classroom by our IT specialist partner. The Mail Force charity will also use funds to buy new devices

Offering 250 laptops to Mail Force, Tony Prestedge – Santander UK’s deputy chief executive – said it was ‘delighted to be supporting the Mail’s important campaign and playing our part in ensuring children in urgent need of equipment do not get left behind during lockdown’.

Matt Moulding, executive chairman of The Hut Group (THG) – which operates more than 200 international consumer websites and specialises in beauty and nutrition products, said: ‘We are delighted to be able to support this campaign. THG has been very fortunate to be able to trade successfully through these difficult times, while a vast number of British businesses have been badly impacted.

‘It is only right that those businesses that have seen success, like ourselves, step up and help.

‘It is this generation of young people who will drive our country forward in the years ahead, pulling us out of the long-term effects of the pandemic.

Matt Moulding, executive chairman of The Hut Group (THG), said: ”It is only right that those businesses that have seen success, like ourselves, step up and help’

‘Giving our young people the toolkit they need is essential for them to play their part in driving the recovery.’

Mr Moulding, 48, founded the Manchester firm in 2004. It has grown exponentially and was recently valued at more than £6billion.

The married father-of-four, said: ‘Everyone has seen how challenging it can be to do home schooling. We’ve got 10,000 staff and many of them are having to do home schooling at the moment.

‘They are doing brilliantly, juggling their work and keeping their kids on track with their lessons, but it’s a challenge for any parent.

‘It’s been a really tough year for kids and we genuinely all feel for them. I can only imagine how you would feel as a 15-year-old boy or girl who has been putting everything into GCSEs and then everything is on hold.

‘What this campaign is doing is getting them online, giving them an access point to the outside world, and we’re all really proud to be able to play a small part in it.’

With schools due to be shut until March, a third of families in the UK say they do not have enough devices for their children to study on. The Mail’s Computers for Kids campaign combines cash contributions from readers and firms, and used laptops donated by companies.

Bank deposit of 250 computers

Santander has offered to help 250 schoolchildren with laptops.

The high street bank is donating ‘high-quality business laptops’ that can be reconfigured for the needs of home-school pupils.

Tony Prestedge, Santander UK’s deputy chief executive, said: ‘At Santander we have long been focused on supporting education for underprivileged young people, funding one of the world’s largest scholarship programmes over the past two decades.’

Laptops donated by big firms such as banks may contain sensitive data, which is why Mail Force has teamed up with the best IT partner in the business to erase everything from the devices securely. They are then rebuilt with educational software to kit them out for a life of learning.

 

For as little as £15, a laptop has its memory securely wiped and it is rebuilt for the classroom by our IT specialist partner. 

The Mail Force charity will also use funds to buy new devices. 

The Mail’s campaign is running parallel to the Government’s impressive programme to get 1.3million laptops to schoolchildren. 

With the help of our amazing readers and Britain’s biggest companies, we aim to help the Government get more out – and to do it faster.

Mail readers have dug deep, sending £930,000 in cheques, online donations and by phone and text.

Many have written heartfelt letters of support – including lots from retired teachers and grandparents.

Former college lecturer Phil Costis wrote: ‘I know how vitally important it is to have laptops for children these days so they can study at home and keep their schooling going. The Daily Mail’s campaign is superb.’

One donor said it all with money – sending no message, but donating an amazing £5,000. Every penny will go towards buying or refurbishing a laptop or helping a child get online with data.

Another donor called Miriam wrote: ‘My adult children had normal academic lives. Through no fault of their own, today’s children are not receiving what mine had. They are our future adults so I hope my small contribution will help those that are disadvantaged the most.’

David Park sent £30 and wrote: ‘I was lucky to have been born into a stable family. I lived in a great environment and won a place at a brilliant grammar school led by highly engaged teachers with motivated pupils.

‘This initiative just may give others a similar chance in our crazy world.’

Maggie Cresswell gave £20 and left a message saying: ‘As a retired teacher – distance learning sounds great!’ 

Growing up, I often heard it said that your teenage years are some of the happiest of your life. But I know first-hand that the reality is far less rosy when you are living below the breadline.

A couple of years ago, at the age of 16, I learned the hard way that life is much easier for some people than others.

While my friends studied in their comfortable bedrooms with cups of hot chocolate made by their mums before dashing off to the cinema or to the town centre with friends, I was moving from sofa to sleeping bag and working in bars to support myself through my A-Levels.

I tried my hardest not to let it show at school, but in reality, after being estranged from my parents, I was homeless and struggling to put food on the table while still in full-time education. I quickly came to understand just how difficult it is to achieve anything at school when the odds are stacked so entirely against you.

Until they’re gone, for instance, you don’t realise how essential the internet and everyday technology such as laptops and smartphones are for schoolchildren – so much of teaching is now run through emails, with online assessments and at-home research tasks. But when it’s the choice between a week’s worth of food or wifi, the decision is made for you.

Despite this, I knew a strong set of qualifications would be my only ticket out of poverty and into a better life. So I learned to rely on public libraries, cafes or even fast food restaurants for wifi and access to public computers since there was no way that I could afford a laptop of my own. I was also fortunate enough to attend a school that did everything in its power to help me succeed in spite of my personal hardships.

Kind teachers did my laundry when I didn’t have access to a washing machine, I was allowed to use the school showers every morning before class and they even managed to provide me with a laptop to complete assignments outside of school.

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

Yes, it was clunky and probably older than I was, but it did the job and was a lifeline that I could not have been more thankful for. In this digital age, that laptop gave me a fighting chance when otherwise I could not have kept up with my more affluent peers.

And that’s why, as schools closed due to the ongoing pandemic, leaving online teaching as the only alternative, my heart sank – I knew from experience the suffering that would follow.

There is a major ‘digital divide’ in society, with many families struggling to access technology in an increasingly digitised world.

And Ofcom estimated last year that up to 1.78million children in the UK do not have access to a computer for school work at home. That’s almost a sixth of British children who – with the school day moved entirely online – now find themselves completely cut off from education.

And that’s why I cannot stress enough the importance of the Mail’s campaign to get computers and other technology to every child that needs it.

Before Covid-19, many of these pupils, like me, might have had to make do with public computers or internet cafes outside of their lessons. But with the country shutting up shop entirely, they have been left with nothing.

In the first national lockdown, one in five children did no school work, or less than an hour a day, according to a study by University College London. And can you blame them? After all, how can one turn in homework that they cannot access?

Simply put, they were robbed of their most fundamental right: The right to an education – and it’s happening all over again. What’s more, we aren’t just talking about sofa-surfing teenagers in rather desperate circumstances.

Poverty is far more than sleeping rough or begging for spare change, and affects countless lives to varying degrees.

Right now, the child living with their large family in a small house, struggling to make do with limited – and vastly expensive – internet data, or struggling to get a moment on the shared family computer, is just as much at risk of falling through the cracks as I was when I was first made homeless.

In fact, despite my struggles, I see myself as one of the fortunate ones. When the pandemic hit in my final year of school, I was already set up with the tools I needed for online learning.

But for so many families, they will have found themselves devastatingly ill-equipped.

For young people, and especially those from difficult backgrounds, school is so much more than a place of learning. It represents safety, structure and the opportunity to achieve. For me, it was my only home.

And now, the risk of isolation from such essential support is incredibly high and the consequences will be devastating – unless we act now. But the wonderful thing is that the solution is actually rather simple.

For millions of children, something as seemingly unimportant as a second-hand laptop – likely discarded in homes across the country, written-off as a useless bit of old tech – has the potential to make a world of difference.

Of course there will come a day when schools reopen their gates and virtual learning will be little more than a distant memory.

But until that day comes, it is vital that we do everything in our power to ensure every student, no matter their background, has decent access to education – otherwise those school gates will open, and many children will have been left behind.

I know first-hand the difference a computer can make – in fact I do not know where I would be today without the kindness of those who believed in me when it felt like no one else would.

So please, lend your support to the Mail’s campaign and let countless forgotten children know that someone believes in them, too.

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