Helping to alleviate digital poverty

Thanks to the generosity of our parents and former pupils, we have been able to support secondary school pupils across the borough who didn’t have sufficient internet access at home. Their lack of access to WiFi has proved an insurmountable barrier to online learning for many young people, with their education severely disrupted as a result.

A deal has been negotiated with mobile network EE and we have already distributed 300 dongles, pre-loaded with 3 months of data, ensuring that pupils - both Latymerians and pupils from schools across our local community - can continue with their learning and can access pastoral support online during the lockdown.

Katharine Danton is the Director of Outreach at the Latymer Upper School. She has recently developed a project that supports pupils across the local community who are struggling to study due to a lack of access to the internet. She writes:  

As we prepared our school community for lockdown, we were aware of the challenges for some of our bursary students to access the internet from home. We immediately looked into a sustainable solution for them to ensure they were able to access the online learning we were providing. The most practical and simple method was to offer these students WiFi dongles to enable them to get online.

As we were looking into this for our own pupils, we wondered how many other schools’ pupils might be in a similar situation. When we reached out to the Heads of partner schools in our area, we found many of their students were also in the same boat. They were doing all they could to facilitate learning during lockdown, but their efforts were being frustrated by lack of access to the internet. One Head told us: “Students without access to the internet are significantly disadvantaged in their ability to continue their education during the lockdown. This compounds the disadvantages they have in their education under normal circumstances. Access to the internet would level the playing field for these students and their contemporaries at, what is already, a difficult time.”  We immediately looked at how we might extend the offer of dongles to as many secondary school students as possible in our local area. The ‘digital divide’ has also been highlighted as a national concern for social mobility by the Sutton Trust in their recent report.

We knew that it wouldn’t be easy to source equipment, as people were panic buying everything from phones and printers to food and toilet roll at that time. Aware of the size of demand, we were keen to increase the scale of our offer, so I approached Stuart Block, Director of Partnerships at St Paul’s School who were keen to work with us on it. He said: “This is a great initiative, something for us to work on together and reduce duplication in our partnership work.  It’s a fantastic extension of our (recently formed) West London Partnership between several local schools across both sectors”.

As a result of this partnership, and thanks to the incredible generosity of the Latymer community, we were able to purchase 300 dongles and cover the monthly costs until the end of Summer Term. It’s still early days, but we’ve had some great feedback already from schools who responded to our offer. Krishna Purbhoo, Executive Principal TBAP (West) has told me: “The benefit to vulnerable families to have internet access cannot be underestimated as we try hard not to let the gap widen further between the disadvantaged learners and their peers. Thank you for helping our most vulnerable at TBAP schools in Hammersmith and Fulham.”