Maro Itoje fronts device donation drive by Virgin Media

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Virgin Media is enabling the public to donate tablets to schoolchildren in need, in a continued effort to help tackle the digital divide throughout lockdown and beyond.

From today, the public can donate devices to families facing financial difficulty as part of Virgin Media’s ongoing Help for Home Learners initiative – providing UK schoolchildren and young adults with the tools needed to take part in online learning and develop digital skills.

This follows newly-released research from the Department for Education that reveals some secondary schoolchildren have lost more than two months’ worth of learning, with losses among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds 50% higher. This week, the Government announced its £700 million education recovery package that includes providing a range of online resources to help pupils catch up on lost learning.

Members of the public who want to help deserving schoolchildren and young adults get online and access learning resources can do so from today by completing a form on Virgin Media’s website, where they’ll be provided with instructions on how to donate their tablet in the post with free delivery.

The tablet distribution will be managed by charity Business in the Community, which has already worked with Virgin Media to get more than 1,000 laptops and mobile dongles into the hands of schoolchildren and young adults who need them the most. Virgin Media is working with device lifecycle experts Brightstar to safely facilitate the handling of the tablets.

Following the announcement that all schools will reopen next month, England rugby player Maro Itoje, who is fronting the initiative, reiterates the importance of ensuring children have access to technology to help them catch up on lost learning and build digital skills that will be essential in the future. He is urging businesses and the public to keep doing what they can to support families with continued access to online learning resources.

Maro Itoje, England International rugby player, said:

“Education is our social balancer. We must do everything we can to support children who haven’t been able to access their education during this pandemic and help them reintegrate back into the classroom environment with ease, providing them with the tools they need to catch up on lost learning. But just as important is the need to equip these children with vital digital skills to expand career prospects in the future. A big thank you to Virgin Media for offering such valuable support.”

Jeff Dodds, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Media, said:

“While schools are reopening soon, having access to online learning resources remains vitally important – not just for virtual lessons and homework – but for setting children up for future success in our increasingly digital world.

“We encourage our employees, customers and the public to help play a part in closing the digital gap by donating any spare tablets to young people in need.”

Before the pandemic, Ofcom estimated that between 1.1 and 1.8 million children did not have access to a laptop or tablet to get online. In the first week of the January 2021 lockdown, just 10% of teachers reported that all their students have adequate access to a device for remote learning, according to research from TeacherTapp.

Meanwhile, based on recent estimates, there could be up to 40 million unused devices in UK homes.


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