A girl sits at a table at home, using a laptop to hold a video call with her teacher and do schoolwork

A country-wide initiative is helping disadvantaged young people keep learning outside the classroom

Microsoft has joined a £126 million Government programme that provides disadvantaged young people in England with laptops and tablets.

The Get Help with Technology initiative provides schools, colleges and councils with new devices. These are passed on to children to ensure those with a social worker or leaving care, as well as those not in school or college due to COVID-19, can continue their learning and remain in contact with support networks.

The latest Government figures from January 25 showed that an estimated 5.1 per cent of all state school pupils in England – around 415,000 children – were at home because of Coronavirus.

The Get Help with Technology scheme will also help councils allocate devices to children who have recently arrived from Afghanistan, to help them adjust to life in England and support their education.

Microsoft has joined the Government’s initiative and a range of Windows-based devices can now be ordered by schools, colleges and councils.

REAch2 Academy Trust is one organisation that’s taken part. It is the largest primary-only academy trust in the country and oversees 60 schools, many of which serve disadvantaged inner-city areas and coastal towns with high levels of deprivation.

Windows laptops sit on a classroom desk

REAch2 Academy Trust has received 4,090 Windows-based laptops

REAch2 has received 4,090 laptops via Get Help with Technology and has ordered more devices and routers to help children who are not able to attend classes in person. All its devices are managed by the trust’s IT team using Microsoft Azure, so pupils can remotely access resources safely and compliantly.

Adele Kane, Head of IT, said: “Our pupils will use these devices in classrooms and for remote learning, either as a class or individually. Used alongside Microsoft Teams and Office 365, children will be able to access cloud-based curriculum resources and online research. We chose Microsoft devices so we could manage and secure them with filtering, safeguarding and virus protection. We are able to manage devices and support the students swiftly.

“We believe technology can enhance educational outcomes. It can provide alternative ways to support educational needs, break down barriers and support inclusion. Children love to connect and collaborate with their friends via Teams, for example. Teachers can embed technology into their lessons, and the digital skills that pupils are learning today will support them in the future.”

Ribblesdale High School, in Clitheroe, Lancashire, received 150 Windows devices via the Government scheme to offer pupils more flexible learning if they need it.

Paul Edge, Deputy Headteacher at Ribblesdale, said: “It’s really important that every pupil has access to the right technology. We chose Microsoft because young people will use their platform as they move forward into their future careers, so it’s important to give them those digital skills and that experience now. Immersive Reader, among other accessibility features, will also help students who have specific learning needs to continue their education remotely.

“Microsoft Teams helps our pupils stay connected to their friends and teachers, and because they will use the devices at home and in the classroom, they will experience a seamless learning experience.”

Chris Rothwell, Director of Education for Microsoft UK, believes the Get Help with Technology scheme is ensuring pupils can continue to receive a high-quality education.

“The pandemic has created unique challenges for schools, colleges and universities across the UK,” he said. “While nothing will fully replicate the classroom environment, it’s vital that pupils who are unable to attend lessons are able to continue their learning at home. We have joined the Get Help with Technology initiative to ensure that young people have powerful, safe and secure devices they can use to connect with their friends, teachers and support networks.”

To learn more about Get Help with Technology, visit the Government’s dedicated website.