University news – University of Exeter donates computers to help Devon pupils learn at home

University of Exeter staff have donated computers to Devon schools to help pupils learning at home.

The machines have been given to primary and secondary schools around the county and are now being used by children. So far almost 50 laptops have been repurposed and many have been donated, with a further 17 currently being repurposed and will be passed on as soon as possible.

University of Exeter staff have volunteered their time to wipe confidential information from the computers and ensure they are ready for school use.

The machines donated, free of charge, had been set aside to be used by students during exams, so although not new they are in good condition. The repurposing efforts have been led by University of Exeter IT Officer Trevor Sharp.

Richard Penhale, ICT Systems Manager at South Dartmoor Community College, said: “I would like to say a massive thank you from all of us here at South Dartmoor. The equipment we have been given will be used by many of our students and this will help continue to support their learning in these strange times.”

Jen Veal, Executive Head Teacher at South Dartmoor Community College, said: “Technological deprivation is a new thing for us; we regularly talk about deprivation in other ways and how we might remove barriers, but the lockdown has brought other issues to the fore which have proven a challenge to overcome. With this kind gift, many more students will either have access granted to them at the same time as their peers, or improve the means by which they engage and that will make the world of a difference to them. If we can ensure the gaps in learning aren’t augmented, that they are instead bridged, or even diminished, then we increase their life chances, which is what we are all here for.”

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Professor Hywel Williams, a data scientist at the University of Exeter who has helped repurpose the computers, said: “It is nice to do something to help families who are finding it hard to access home school. If anyone has any old laptops gathering dust there are lots of schemes out there that will get them to people who need them. They really do make a difference.”

So far five laptops have been given to Diptford Primary, 10 to Teignmouth Community School, 14 to South Dartmoor Community College, 10 to St Thomas Primary School in Exeter and five to Dartington Primary. University of Exeter staff are due to find homes for the others as soon as possible, with 10 computers due to be donated to the Ladysmith Federation in Exeter.

James O’Connell, Principal at Teignmouth Community School, said: “It is very generous and kind of University of Exeter staff to take the trouble to clean, set up and donate these devices for our community. They are being passed on to the families who we have identified as being most in need at this time.

“Many people don’t come forward and ask directly for this support, probably through their own decency and sense of pride, but many of our students are in homes where several siblings and a parent are trying to share one computer, or they’re just using a smart phone. This generosity will make a real difference to ten of our students who are now much better able to access the learning and keep up with the more fortunate of their peers.”

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Professor Janice Kay, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, said: “The University of Exeter is proud to support county schools in this way. Primary and secondary education of Devon’s future is what it’s all about and we are pleased to have been able to donate computers to help pupils have the best learning opportunities available in these unprecedented times.”

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