Amazon and digital education charity, the Learning Foundation have launched Tech4Schools, a new scheme that provides low-income schools serving disadvantaged communities with new devices, digital skills training and tech support. The scheme is funded by Amazon, and will be rolled out in collaboration with charity In Kind Direct, who will connect schools with their devices, and education charity Teach First, who will identify schools to participate in the scheme, all of whom will be part of Teach First programmes.
Tech4Schools is an initiative designed to tackle the issue of digital poverty and digital access – an issue which excludes many disadvantaged children and families across the UK from basic learning, work and career opportunities. Research from Teach First has revealed that one in five children who were home schooled in 2021 due to the pandemic, did not have access to an appropriate device, and around 10.2 million people (20 per cent) in the UK lack the digital skills needed for everyday life.
Following £360,000 funding from Amazon, Teach First will select schools in need from disadvantaged communities across the UK to receive support. Each school will receive a donation of £18,000 to fund devices to use at home and in-class, as well as other tech peripherals they may need, such as keyboards and headphones. Participating schools will also receive bespoke support from the Learning Foundation on how to embed a digital culture within the school, how to engage with parents, and how teachers can best use devices to enhance learning opportunities for young people of all ages.
In addition, the Learning Foundation’s online Community Hub will run a dedicated space for school staff participating in this scheme, to share best practice and learning, together with masterclasses and short “how to” sessions, with Q&As for participants. Schools will also gain support from experts within their Teach First community, and receive ongoing access to products and savings with In Kind Direct.
The Learning Foundation will evaluate the impact of the scheme with support from the University of Nottingham Trent, who has been commissioned to assess how the device donations and digital support affect pupils’ attitudes to learning. Only a limited number of schools (20) have been selected to participate in Tech4Schools, but if the programme is successful, it is hoped the scheme will be rolled out to more schools with the support of all four partners.
Elizabeth Anderson, COO, The Learning Foundation, comments:
“In an increasingly digital world, it’s never been more vital that all our young people have access to the right technology for their education. But we know that hard-pressed schools aren’t always able to provide this.
“As we celebrate our 21st birthday supporting schools with tech this year, we’re incredibly grateful to Amazon, as well as our partners In Kind Direct and Teach First, for coming alongside us to help us continue to empower these schools, and their pupils.”
Beth Knight, Head of Amazon in the Community, Europe, comments:
“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to provide schools with much needed devices and to help equip young people with the skills and equipment needed to unlock their future potential. Amazon is proud to be part of Tech4Schools.”
Paul Buchanan, Interim CEO from In Kind Direct, comments:
“We believe everyone deserves access to life’s essentials and that no usable product should go to waste. So many children without access to technology and connectivity have already missed out and are continuing to miss out on their education. We don’t want any child to feel left behind, that’s why we’re working alongside Amazon, The Learning Foundation and Teach First to ensure schools get the technology and support they need to provide their students with equal opportunities in learning. In Kind Direct is supporting by ensuring participating schools have access to the products they need, when they need them”
Russell Hobby, CEO from Teach First, commented:
“The pandemic revealed several inequalities in our education system, and the digital divide was one. It remains serious as technology is playing an increasing role in pupils’ learning. If young people from poorer backgrounds do not have equal access to devices and the internet, then the attainment gap will grow.
“That’s why, through the Tech4schools initiative, we’re working with our partners to identify and support schools that most need new digital devices and tech support. Together, we hope to address the ongoing digital divide within education and equip the younger generation with the digital skills they need to excel in school, work and beyond.”