Access to digital devices campaign to benefit students and Leicester businesses To ensure that every child has access to an equal education, a local academy trust is in the midst of a campaign that provides Google Chromebooks to disadvantaged students in their care WORDS BY KERRY SMITH
he digital devices campaign began in July for pupils attending schools which are part of the Lionheart Academies Trust, a Leicestershire based group of eleven schools. During lockdown, it became apparent to teachers and employees in the trust that there were young people under their care who found it difficult to access education at home due to a lack of resources. Business Engagement Lead and Assistant Principal of the Trust, Rikki Khakhar, said: “When we set out on this journey, school closure was a national outcome of the Covid-19 crisis. Learning naturally moved to online platforms, but disadvantaged students who didn’t necessarily have access to digital devices found it harder to engage.” For educational settings, learning is moving to the digital sphere; homework is set online and teachers rely on technology, such as digital visualisers, for engagement in class. Rikki added: “Where learning is more frequently becoming virtual, it’s key that students have access to digital devices to engage. Students who do not, are at risk of being left behind, and may have already lost out on time due to lockdown.” Since the inception of the campaign, Lionheart has partnered with local businesses and members of the community to fund over 100 Chromebooks for students. Marcus Bates, Senior Quantity Surveyor at ISG which has sponsored five Chromebooks, commented: “The Chromebook initiative could be the catalyst for achievement for many young people, leading to their individual social mobility. “This is an integral ingredient of a fair society where all can prosper, irrespective of their socioeconomic beginnings.” Lionheart has built relationships with local businesses not only in order to level the educational, socioeconomic playing field, but to benefit society for years to come.
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Rikki continued: “Our students will inevitably go on to assist businesses who have supported our campaign as members of the future workforce, in turn helping to boost Leicester’s growing economy.” Chromebook sponsor Sunil Patel, Joint Managing Director at Leicester manufacturer Unique Window Systems, said: “The academy is close to us as we have many employees that are Lionheart alumni, ranging in ages and backgrounds. With our own positive experience, we at Unique hope to help the Lionheart Academies Trust develop the next generation, who will continue to add value to local and national businesses alike.” Also involved is Paul Baker, founder and Managing Director of Bakers Waste. He described the campaign as a way to “support our local community’s education system”. He went on to say: “Learning that our support will enable disadvantaged students to work from home and stay safe has made me incredibly proud. I look forward to seeing these students go on to contribute to the Leicestershire business community for many years to come.” Current sponsors also include Cross Productions, Schoolwear Solutions, Surveyors to Education, GTE Electrical Services, and Crowndale. Although schools reopened in September, Lionheart’s concerns have been further exacerbated by self-isolation and ‘bubble’ closures. Disadvantaged students who have to work from home for periods of time are still at risk of missing out on an education equal to that of their middleclass peers. This new and current issue raises ample concerns for educators alike. For the future, the question remains as to how disadvantaged students will keep up with an increasingly digital workload. It’s possible these new online teaching techniques will continue long after the pandemic.
Niche Magazine is a bimonthly independent business and lifestyle magazine that supports local businesses