750 laptops and ICT devices donated to local children

More than 750 laptops and other ICT devices have been provided to school children who do not have access to a home computer in Bridgend County Borough.

Part of a Welsh Government-funded initiative to ensure that pupils can continue to benefit from online learning during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the scheme has been organised by council ICT staff, the Central South Consortium and network managers at schools across the county borough.

The devices, which include reconditioned laptops, have been donated by local schools and will be replaced with new kit also funded by Welsh Government.

The laptops have been rebuilt using an operating system which enables schools and organisations to turn the computers into devices which can be managed securely.

As part of the initiative, more than 300 homes which did not previously have internet access have also been provided with a mobile broadband device.

This is enabling children to connect to the internet and access digital learning platforms provided by schools as well as Hwb, a collection of online tools and resources which is available to all schools in Wales.

Cllr Charles Smith, Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, said: “Since the start of lockdown, schools have provided pupils with a range of digital learning opportunities, and thanks to this innovative service, all pupils have been able to gain access and benefit from home learning while the lockdown is in effect.

“Teachers, school leaders and the council’s education officers have also accessed the support to share ideas for developing new approaches to distance and digital learning, while Central South Consortium has provided valuable support to schools in developing their use of the resources offered by Hwb.”

Commenting on the initiative, Robbie Owen, acting head teacher of Penybont Primary School, said: “Learning at home quickly became a necessity due to the pandemic, but it was apparent very early on that not all of our pupils would be able to access digital learning activities at home.

“Through our close work with Bridgend County Borough Council, we were able to identify which children were affected by this, and delivered devices and digital resources, including wi-fi, to their homes.

“To say that the children have been grateful is an understatement. Their faces lit up when receiving the equipment, and parents and carers have thanked the school and the council for this much-valued support.

“These devices have not only enabled the children to engage in digital learning activities, but also to receive wellbeing services, too.

“As a result of this initiative, all pupils are now able to visit ‘Penybont Primary On Demand’, our virtual school, at any time they wish to collect messages from staff, take part in assemblies and move around the classrooms on a virtual tour which is helping to maintain the feeling of being part of our school community even though the pandemic is still in effect.”