Computers For Kids UK (CFKUK) is a newly-formed initiative covering East and West Sussex started solely to help children and families to access laptops and PCs to use for home schooling. It comprises a small team collecting and refurbishing laptops and devices to give to children who would not otherwise have access or would have to share a device with siblings.

It is vitally important to help children without access to remote learning stay up to date with their education to save them falling behind at school. Some families are having to share devices between siblings, working up to 16 hours a day to get their work completed. This is however not possible long-term and CFKUK’s aim is to get as many families connected to online learning as quickly as possible.

The project is being supported through its initial stages by Mid Sussex Voluntary Action (MSVA), an independent charity providing support services to local voluntary organisations, enabling them to be set up, grow and thrive. MSVA also aims to foster partnership working to bring together the voluntary, statutory, and business communities.

Lauren Lloyd, chief executive officer of Mid Sussex Voluntary Action says, “I became aware of Colin’s remarkable endeavours when I saw posts on social media. I offered MSVA’s support and we’re delighted to have been able to help. We supported Computers for Kids UK to become constituted, offered advice on setting up a bank account and ensured they have effective governance in place, such as trustees and safeguarding policies. The team at Computers for Kids UK is making a huge difference to the lives of so many children and families in Sussex and MSVA looks forward to working with them, alongside our other 400 charity and voluntary group members in 2021 and beyond.”

How the group started

Computers For Kids UK was started by Colin Hill, a writer from Haywards Heath. The idea for the group came about when Colin placed an offer of two devices on local Facebook community groups. He was contacted by a large number of families in need and others with items to donate.

What began with Colin and a few friends and neighbours trying to help their local community quickly grew and Computers For Kids UK was born. Laptop Liberators, a similar group operating in East Sussex, soon joined forces to cover as much of Sussex as possible.

Conner Murphy from Pixel Computing, based in Mid Sussex, reached out to offer his company’s services. Without their assistance there would not be such robust systems now in place, for example data wiping on devices, quality control, risk assessments, or a new website.

How it works

CFSUK is in contact with local schools and they donate to them to give to the pupils who need the devices most. The group asks that a long-term loan agreement is put in place by schools and parents so the equipment cannot be sold on and is essentially kept by the children it goes to.

Schools can contact CFSUK and request devices – which are donated free of charge.

The scale of the problem

One school in a local underprivileged area who contacted Computers For Kids UK has 554 students, 183 of which are Pupil Premium students which means they are likely to be from a disadvantaged background. In a recent survey around access to devices for home schooling it was found that 135 children at the school had no technology to use for remote learning, which is just one example of the digital divide students are facing.

Another local school needing 200 devices said: “Giving a child a device provides access to the remote learning we are delivering on Google Classrooms. Children will be able to continue to learn and develop the skills to continue to make progress in their journey through our school and into the workplace in the future. As a primary school we provide the foundations and establish essential learning behaviours for life. Giving children the daily routine of remote learning, assemblies and contact with their teachers and classmates, will help our children while school is closed.”

CFKUK has heard from many schools who have requested 30+ devices from Government but to date have only been sent one or two. The group feels this is not enough and know that some children are falling behind because parents have contacted them in desperation. They are trying to home school on one mobile phone between several children, and are really struggling.

Help needed

More donations are needed as demand is far exceeding supply. Also needed are tech wizards who can help refurbish and test devices before they go to children. This involves wiping data and installing any required operating system. Tech volunteers are currently doing this free of charge, for which the group is hugely thankful. They need more though, as well as volunteers to help transport the donated computers.

“We must remember that children are our communities’ future and there are so many who need our help right now. We’d like to encourage the community to help and step in to fill this gap,” adds Colin Hill.