• Mark Bailie of BGL Group calls on firms to give what they can to plug the digital divide and prevent a generation of home learners from falling behind
• 191 schools each received £1,500 to fund tech via BGL4Schools campaign
BGL, home of comparethemarket.com, is calling on businesses to step in and help schools support remote learners to prevent a generation of children falling behind.
Mark Bailie, who heads up the business behind the price comparison site, said firms not only have a duty to their colleagues and their families, but to the wider community to ensure young people are able to realise their potential.
He said: “Schools are in an impossible situation trying to homeschool and teach vulnerable children and those of key workers. Meanwhile they have increasing pressure on their budgets.”
“We are grateful for everything teachers are doing right now and they need as much support as possible. With the likelihood that an element of homeschooling - as much as home working - will become a standard part of life for the foreseeable, the digital capability of our children is something we all should support.”
“I would urge businesses, who are already having to adapt to the challenges of remote working and homeschooling, to support schools with this challenge in the coming months and years and consider how they allocate funds to have the maximum impact.”
BGL recently launched a £285,000 campaign – BGL4Schools – to help struggling schools purchase tech to support remote learning.
The response from schools was overwhelming. In total 191 applied for funding and each received a £1,500 grant.
One of the recipients was Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets, London, where more than 60 per cent of pupils are on free school meals.
Paul Jackson, headteacher, said: “Manorfield is based in one of the most deprived parts of the country, with a high level of unemployment and poverty. Far too many of our children face significant barriers, which we work hard to ensure they overcome. A major barrier at the moment is children with no access to devices to facilitate online learning.”
Emma Rowntree, headteacher at Seascape Primary School, in Peterlee, County Durham, where many pupils are in the one per cent most deprived nationally, said: “It’s a nightmare. We have been lucky getting laptops from the Department for Education but a lot of parents don’t have broadband or unlimited data. Sometimes parents can’t use the laptops we give out or don’t know how to log on.”
“We have used the latest money from BGL to fund headphones as they’re proving essential. A lot of families might have five or six children who all share a bedroom so they need headphones to have the ability just to listen. That’s something a lot of people are lacking – a quiet space to do their lessons.”
“Having proper digital access is essential. It’s not just about the lessons, it enables the children to attend whole school assemblies where they love to just to see each other, so tech is important for their mental health and for us to know that the children are well and safe.”
Darren Smith, deputy headteacher at William Law C of E Primary School in Werrington, Peterborough, said: “We have families who haven’t got a laptop or Wi-Fi and we’re also getting the occasional phone calls where the laptop is broken or they aren’t able to access the resources or there are maybe three in a household all sharing one device.”
“We will also use the money for reading books as last lockdown we had some children go back two years in reading and we’re really keen that doesn’t happen again. Reading is very fundamental to the rest of the curriculum so it’s important we keep that up at home.”
BGL has donated more than £1 million to charities, schools and other good causes since April. As well as giving grants to schools, the company has also empowered its colleagues to volunteer or fundraise for their child’s school by offering double match funding. BGL colleagues have also been reading online with a child for half an hour each week via Innovations for Learning’s TutorMate programme.