Today the Liverpool Echo is launching a campaign to ensure no child misses out on their online education.

Ten months into the pandemic thousands of children across the Liverpool City Region are being denied the basic right to education because they are unable to access lessons online.

Our Cash for Connectivity campaign aims to raise £1.2m to help provide 100,000 disadvantaged households, here on Merseyside and across the North of England, with free internet access.

We're joining forces with fellow publishers and sister titles across the North to launch the appeal, which is part of the Laptops for Kids campaign, launched by technology entrepreneur David Richards and supported by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

All the money raised will help buy internet-enabled dongles - hardware that enables you to connect laptops and up to five other devices per household to the internet.

With schools staying closed for the majority of pupils until at least March 8 the need for this emergency funding is greater than ever.

"For me it's shocking and scary that they don't all have access to the internet"

Big Brother winner Craig Phillips kick-started the ECHO's campaign today by donating £100 to the cause.

If you would like to donate to the appeal you can do so through our Go Fund Me page by clicking here.

Craig said: "Kids are our future who are preparing the pathway of the world for us. It's a priority that they should be educated and looked after.

"For me it's shocking and scary that they don't all have access to the internet. Parents are trying to self-school and they haven't got access to the internet through no fault of their own.

"We should be supporting our education system and the government should be financing it one way or another.

"Even trying to do school work on a small screen on a mobile phone in my opinion is bad for their eyesight and long term health."

Craig said he "absolutely supports the campaign" and added: "Something like this where it involves our children's education and health and well-being - it's just got to be a priority."

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Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden is also backing the Cash for Connectivity campaign "to help close the digital divide".

Mr Carden said: "Children from low-income families are losing out and being denied their education because they don't have the data or the devices to access online learning.

"It's scandalous that nearly a year since schools first had to close, the Government hasn't properly addressed this. In my constituency, teachers tell me how their schools and pupils still don't have the digital access they need.

"I welcome this campaign by the Liverpool ECHO to help close the digital divide."

Here's how you can donate

The ECHO is aiming to raise £20,000 which will help us to buy 1,666 dongles for households across Merseyside.

We're calling on ECHO readers, businesses and public figures to give us a helping hand by donating to the campaign and spreading the word on social media using the hashtag #cash4connect and tagging @LivEchonews.

If you would like to donate to the appeal you can do so through our Go Fund Me page by clicking here.

According to analysis from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, based on data from Ofcom and ONS, 10% of all children in the North of England don't have access to a desktop computer, tablet or laptop.

This number includes at least 100,000 households without internet connectivity according to analysis by Laptops for Kids.

The Cash For Connectivity campaign is aiming to give 100,000 disadvantaged families access to the internet

A recent survey of city schools carried out on behalf of Liverpool council by the School Improvement team to identify IT needs for children and young people found that of the 8,949 pupils currently going into school in Liverpool, at least 1,405 were at school because of a lack of IT facilities at home.

This represents 16% of the average pupil attendance, meaning around one in six students at school during lockdown are there because of IT issues preventing them working remotely.

The figures have prompted "concern" from teaching union NEU which says the increased number of students in school during lockdown is "impacting on covid security" and that government "tardiness" in getting laptops to children in need is partly to blame for the situation.

According to the Liverpool School Improvement Team survey there are also at least 3,283 children and young people in Liverpool struggling to learn at home because they do not have access to a stable internet connection.

David Richards, founder and CEO of data software company WANdisco plc, said: “This is a quick and inexpensive fix to an urgent social problem and we encourage readers to donate.

“Connectivity is as important as water and should be freely available to those in need. Together we can help end the data drought in the North of England.”

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Head of Policy at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership Sarah Mulholland said: “While it’s fantastic that people and businesses are donating laptops and devices to help children learn from home, equally as important is ensuring that families have internet connectivity.

“The pandemic has deepened existing disparities in education, with the most disadvantaged children at risk of falling even further behind their classmates if we don’t step in.

“With help from people across the North, we’re confident we can ensure our young people are able to get the technology they need to keep on learning.”

Editor-in-chief and audience and content director for Reach PLC's regional titles Ed Walker said: “Both InYourArea and our regional titles across the North of England are all about connecting our communities.

“Our journalists have been inundated by messages from those struggling with homeschooling and many of us feel that pressure too with children at home at the moment.

“Not having a consistent and reliable connection means the learning chances of those who need it most in communities across the North is being hit by buffering or sometimes having no connection at all.

“I am proud to lead InYourArea and Reach's regional titles across the North in uniting to urge our readers both in print and online to help us to make a real difference, and quickly, to many.”

If you would like to donate to the appeal you can do so through our Go Fund Me page by clicking here.