Culture change key to ensuring all have online connectivity

Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

A laptop campaign run by this newspaper successfully supplied over 5,300 children with laptops to access online learning during lockdown.

Claire Cullens at Norfolk Community Foundation which has been running the Every Child Online campaign alongside this newspaper and Norfolk County Council, said it had so far provided internet access for between 80pc to 90pc of children who need it, but many have still fallen through cracks in the system.

She said a culture change was needed, so that internet access was seen as a necessity instead of a luxury.

Ms Cullens said: "The long-term is a review of how we work with children and how we make sure they have access.

"Post pandemic, there won't be the funder appetite to continue to provide kit, but there is a huge power in getting children connected as you're not only connecting the children, you're connecting the whole family and that means you've got a whole range of support.

"You can see from the pandemic how much our support systems are dependent on getting online and more so than ever, we need a bigger discussion about how we're going to solve this.

"I think internet has moved away from being a luxury to being what you need for day to day living and that's also about making sure laptops are affordable."

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool.

Children need a laptop or tablet for homeschool. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

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She added that the key to ensuring all children stay connected laid in finding those children who have slipped through the cracks with the NCF's Plug The Gap scheme which is run in partnership with Osiris and Candour.

She said: "There are still unidentified 'hidden children' who have got lost in the system and not been picked up, but their learning requirements are even more acute.

"We want to make sure that there is no child left behind and I think that work is going to take time and the long term is about trying to uncover more of those."

Undated file photo of a person using a laptop keyboard.

Undated file photo of a person using a laptop keyboard. - Credit: PA

So far Plug The Gap has managed to supply 46 laptops to children who have not been picked up by the school system.

To donate to the Plug the Gap campaign visit the NCF's website.

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