United Kingdom

Campaign to help get laptops to lockdown pupils starts with a bang

Our campaign to help get laptops to lockdown pupils has raised a staggering £250,000 in its first weekend.

In a flying start beyond our wildest dreams, Daily Mail readers have again shown phenomenal generosity.

From £5 to £5,000, thousands of contributions have flooded in – many from grandparents – coupled with heartfelt messages of support.

One pensioner gave £250, signing off simply as a 'retiree' who was 'happy to help the young'. 

And today Bill Gates, who practically invented home computing, has been inspired to add his heavyweight support to the drive to help the neediest schoolchildren. The Microsoft co-founder said its success was 'vital'.

The Daily Mail poll illustrates the effect of school closures on children and shows four in ten parents say the cost of computers and other items they need is too high

David Walliams said he was 'pleased and proud' to back the campaign, and urged big names to follow suit. The comedian and children's author handed over a five-figure sum.

Every penny of the money will help the Mail Force charity to accelerate the Government's efforts to get laptops to schools.

An exclusive poll for the Mail today reveals one in three families do not have enough computers for their children to study at home.

With classrooms likely to stay shut until after Easter, a 'digital divide' is opening up between pupils who are able to follow online lessons at home and those who do not have ready access to the internet.

Mail Force, the charity set up by the Mail last year to buy personal protective equipment for the NHS, is now obtaining devices for children who desperately need them for study. 

The Computers for Kids campaign launched only on Saturday yet within 48 hours, our generous readers have donated £210,000 online.

Because Mail Force is a registered charity, and qualifies for Gift Aid, which can add 20 per cent to a donation, the overall sum raised is £250,000. Many readers will have posted cheques that are yet to arrive while our online giving page was swamped with warm messages of support.

An anonymous donor decided money spoke louder than words, putting down an extraordinary £5,000. 

Another, named just Bowers, gave £1,000. The cash will be spent on refurbishing used laptops given by companies that are upgrading their systems. 

Scores of donor firms have already been in touch with Mail Force's IT specialist partner. For as little as £15, a laptop can be securely wiped of all data, rebuilt and made classroom-ready.

Mail Force will also buy new laptops and tablets to hand over to the Department for Education. Nothing Mail Force does will interfere with the Government's programme – it will just help to speed things up.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, writing in today's Mail, says: 'I'm delighted the Daily Mail and its generous readers will be helping our remote education programme.

'I want to assure you we have been working incredibly hard to deliver the necessary tech across the country so that every child, especially those from disadvantaged homes, can keep their learning on track. 

Mail Force is now obtaining devices for children who desperately need them for their study. (Stock image)

Backed by the support of the Mail and its readers, I have no doubt remote education will continue to go from strength to strength.' 

The Mail Force crusade has also won the backing of the main teaching unions. The scheme means the DfE has become one of the world's biggest buyers of computers, ordering 1.3million so far – of which 800,000 have been delivered.

Among the contributions flooding in from Mail readers over the weekend was £150 from grandparents named Phil and Sue who left a message saying: 'We have ten grandchildren, so we are funding one computer on behalf of each one.'

Donating £300, plus £75 Gift Aid, Mail reader Jill sent an encouraging message to the children: 'Fantastic cause. Well done Mail. Good luck kids with all your studying – this will all get better soon.'

A former teacher, who gave £50 anonymously, said: 'It is heart-breaking to witness the disparity in access to learning for our children.'

It's Mission Impossible to get my kids online   

By Lizzie Deane for the Daily Mail

Harriet Way, 31, from Eastleigh in Hampshire, says it has been 'Mission: Impossible' trying to get her children's work done without enough laptops

Harriet Way says it has been 'Mission: Impossible' trying to get her children's work done without enough devices.

Her three school-age children – Mia, nine, Alfie, six, and four-year-old Isla – are sharing two donated laptops.

She says it is an improvement on the first two weeks of term, when the children were using tablets but their education is still suffering.

The 31-year-old, from Eastleigh in Hampshire, who has two younger children, two-year-old Theo and 17-month-old Lexi, said she has been forced to choose which of the elder three can study.

'Most days one of the kids will still miss out on some of their lessons because they can't all use the laptops at the same time,' she said. 

'It's like Mission: Impossible trying to get all of their lessons done. The video lessons have been a godsend, but if all three have one at the same time I'm forced to choose who gets to tune into their lesson.

'I prioritise Mia because she's the oldest – but I shouldn't have to because then the others suffer. I do worry for their education, because these are years they'll never get back.

'The jump from infant to junior school especially is a massive leap.'

We juggle one laptop among our three children 

Lynsey Fulcher, 42, from Shildon in County Durham, said having only one small-screen laptop to share between her sons made things even more of a struggle for her and partner Andrew Basham

As a mother of three boys with a range of disabilities, lockdown learning was never going to be easy for Lynsey Fulcher.

But having only one small-screen laptop to share between her sons has made things even more of a struggle for her and fiance Andrew Basham.

Their three boys – George, nine, Matthew, seven, and six-year-old William – have a mixture of conditions and special needs. 

Miss Fulcher, 42 and from Shildon in County Durham, said: 'Disabled children have been forgotten about during the pandemic.

'They've not been able to get carers in, they're not getting therapies, parents are getting no respite time.'

Miss Fulcher said she had used Fair For You, a not-for-profit lending firm, to buy sensory lights, toys and books to stimulate the boys through lockdown.

My daughter's GCSEs are at risk

Freya Smith, 15, does not have a laptop for vital assessments

Freya Smith is in her final year at secondary and does not have a laptop for vital assessments.

The 15-year-old has been accessing live online lessons via an Xbox and iPad, but struggles to do the coursework that partly decides her GCSE grades.

Her mother Lisa said having a laptop would help her after enduring, like all pupils, such disruption.

The 51-year-old school worker said: 'They've had a really tough time this year group – they only did half a year last year and now this year has been disrupted and they're the two most important years really, the GCSE studies.

'The lack of technology just adds to the pressure they're feeling. She needs a laptop to complete the classwork and homework and also the coursework for her GCSEs. 

Quite often they need a Word application, so a laptop would be so beneficial.

'All the students and Freya particularly have been so resilient, they've adapted to online learning and they're just getting on with it. They're spending a lot of time on their online lessons and then having to take extra time because they don't have the right technology.

'If they had that laptop it would just make the best use of their time and help them to work efficiently.'

Freya is on the waiting list for a laptop at her school, Arena Academy in Birmingham.

'They're working so hard and they just so deserve to have the right equipment,' her mother said.

Home schooling despair: One in three locked-down families don't have enough computers for their children to study 

By Simon Walters for the Daily Mail

One third of families are struggling with home schooling because they simply do not have enough computers for their children, an exclusive poll for the Daily Mail today reveals.

Four in ten parents say the cost of computers and other items they need is too high, according to the survey.

More than a quarter cite the high cost of internet access as a problem.

And families worst hit by the Covid schools shutdown are the poorest and those in the North.

The Daily Mail poll illustrates the devastating effect of school closures on children – and their mums and dads.

An overwhelming 72 per cent of parents believe it is the Government's responsibility to provide computers to children. (Stock image)

The survey by JL Partners shows that nearly one in five children (18 per cent) learning from home gets no 'live' schooling via a computer screen from their teacher per day whatsoever.

Significant numbers of parents say their children's hopes of getting a good education, a university place or a career have been severely damaged by nearly a year of Covid disrupted education.

Even their social skills have been damaged by being denied face to face contact with their friends.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who came to power on a pledge to 'level up' Britain, will be concerned that the impact on poorer children is greater in all these categories.

Nor is it only the young who are suffering: a staggering one in two parents says their own mental health has deteriorated.

Mothers have borne the brunt: 55 per cent say their mental health has got worse – nine per cent higher than fathers (46 per cent).

Parents' concern is shared by the wider public: 49 per cent of all adults say coronavirus has caused long-term damage to children's life chances; 20 per cent disagree.

According to the poll, 82 per cent of children in England, Scotland and Wales are learning from home.

A total of 32 per cent of parents say they do not have enough computers for their studies. Nearly one in five (19 per cent) has more than one child – but only one laptop.

Six per cent who do not have a computer are forced to use a mobile phone instead.

But – while there are clearly difficulties – two thirds of parents say they do have enough laptops to cope. 

An overwhelming 72 per cent believe it is the Government's responsibility to provide computers to make home learning easier; only seven per cent disagree.

Two thirds of parents say the cost of 'remote learning materials' such as computers, software and exercise books, is too high. 

While parents are largely supportive of teachers, 41 per cent want more help from schools for children forced to learn in their front room or kitchen; 29 per cent say they have enough support.

Twenty-seven per cent believe internet access costs too much, with 23 per cent saying they grin and bear it and pay up to stop their children falling behind. Sixteen per cent of parents pay between £10 and £30 per week for internet access.

Most parents are doing their best to take the place of teachers: 44 per cent spend between one and three hours per day helping their children learn at home. An impressive additional 27 per cent devote more than three hours a day.

While 43 per cent of parents say they have taken over teaching duties because the school had 'fallen short' in its obligations; 30 per cent did not blame the school.

Remarkably, the survey suggests parents now do more 'live lesson' teaching than teachers. 

Children unable to go to school are getting an average of two hours and six minutes of 'live' remote lessons from their school teacher a day – two minutes less than the average time parents spend teaching their offspring.

Seventeen per cent of parents in the South are paying for private tuition to help children learn at home – more than three times more than in the less prosperous North where 5 per cent do this.

Children who are not able to go to school are getting an average of two hours and six minutes of 'live' remote lessons. (Stock image)

Nowhere is the class divide on the effect of the stress and strain on parents during the Covid crisis illustrated more vividly than the mental health impact. 

Among affluent families, 39 per cent say their mental health has suffered; 20 per cent say it has improved.

However, among the poorest families, these figures are 61 per cent and five per cent respectively. The public agree that today's young generation will feel the effects of the pandemic for decades.

Almost one in two (49 per cent) say it will inflict long-term damage to their children's life chances; 20 per cent say it will not have this effect. James Johnson of JL Partners said: 'This poll lays bare the stark inequality of the Covid pandemic, and months of remote learning.

'Middle-class parents say there has been no real impact on their children's life chances, but children of working-class parents and the unemployed are short of laptops, their parents have seen their physical and mental health worsen, and they are the least likely to have remote lessons provided for by their school.

'While some enjoy the comforts of being at home, this data shows that less affluent children are truly being left behind.'

A total of 4,052 adults took part in the poll from January 18 to 21. It includes 988 parents of children under 18. Of these, 734 have youngsters learning from home.

How you can help?

What is Mail Force doing? 

With schools shut and children learning online, those without laptops are falling behind. 

As with last year's successful drive to provide PPE to the NHS, Mail Force is sourcing laptops fast and passing them on to schools through the Government's existing distribution scheme. We are working closely with the Department for Education.

Isn't the Government doing this?

Ministers ordered 1.3million laptops, with 800,000 already delivered. But a third of families say they don't have enough and schools could be shut until after Easter. We want to help speed things up for children missing lessons.

How does it work?

With money donated to the charity, it costs as little as £15 to refurbish a second-hand laptop – which generous companies are already starting to donate. Mail Force will also purchase brand new laptops and tablets. This is on top of Government supply.

Can I give my own laptop?

Sadly not, for technical reasons.

Laptops have sensitive data – is it safe?

Yes, completely. The process is handled by experts at a firm of global IT specialists. Their clients include multinational banks, blue chip companies and governments who trust them to securely wipe old laptops to a 'gold standard'.

Mail Force is not directly involved in the process.

How will they go to the right children? 

The Department for Education prioritises those who need the laptops most, calculated by using a school's number of children on free meals or pupil premium (funding for disadvantaged youngsters). 

The laptops are then sent to schools for head teachers to allocate to families.




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.


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

Please don't send us your old device.

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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