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21 January 2021

Merchant Taylors' Foundation Responds to Urgent Need for Laptops for Students

As part of Merchant Taylors’ Foundation’s ambition to tackle disadvantage and support education, it has awarded grants to two of the Company’s associated schools to fund urgently-needed equipment.

St Saviour’s & St Olave’s School, in Southwark, London, and Merchant Taylors’ Oxfordshire Academy Trust were both awarded £14,850 as England’s third national lockdown was announced in early January. The Foundation’s quick response to the continued IT deficit faced by many schools will enable students otherwise at risk of falling behind in their studies, to continue with live teaching and online learning.

Live teaching, as opposed to recorded lessons which students can watch later, has proved vital for students’ continued learning. Real-time lessons, as in the usual school environment, means pupils can ask questions and learn more effectively at the speed of the class. The formal structure of a school day also has added mental and social benefits to young people who continue to feel the sharp end of coronavirus’ impact.

The need for students to have access to their own laptop or device through which they can attend live teaching in addition to a wealth of online support and resources is vital and those without their own devices are at risk of being left behind not only educationally but with the compounded impact on mental health.

This lockdown is different for us as a school for a number of reasons. Pleasingly, our remote learning offer is much more sophisticated now with a more effective blended mix of “live” and recorded learning and other tasks. But the inherent challenge is that students require greater access to a suitable device – ideally a laptop – if they are to connect with the structured full timetable which their peers are experiencing all day, every day; if they don’t have this access then the divide widens with every hour. We also know more about our families this time as we conducted a series of device audits in the autumn. It is not uncommon for a home with three siblings to have one laptop which is shared between them and perhaps a couple of phones, which immediately compromises the learning experience and potentially causes tension at home.

A young woman listening to headphones works in a book with a laptop open nearby

As classes continued to be delivered remotely, the disadvantage already faced by many students across the country prior to COVID-19 has been exacerbated by continued lockdowns. Merchant Taylors’ Foundation’s grants offer students a lifeline to education and to their friends. As we know, a good education can change a person’s world, and these grants will no doubt make a world of difference to many.

I am delighted that the Merchant Taylors’ Foundation has been able to respond so quickly to the urgent needs of our schools. By providing laptops to students we are able to make an instant and significant difference to those struggling with the demands of learning at home. The Company should be heartened by the strong relationship we have with all our schools and the great work they are doing to get through these unprecedented challenges.

Thank you so much for this. The funding will make a massive difference for students who are currently having to share a computer with more than one sibling. Please pass on our gratitude to all who have helped approve the funding on behalf of myself, Catherine and everyone here at St Saviour's & St Olave's.

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