Lockdown fatigue has struck here in Tooting. My children are aged six and three and, having started low, our household home schooling ambitions have decreased week by week. We now read, occasionally, and are glued to our screens, a lot.
Luckily there’s a lot of stuff online that passes as educational: Ninjago – it’s Lego, therefore engineering; Gojetters, geography; Power Rangers … err PE? And If I’m trying to provide higher quality parenting there’s the BBC’s daily Bitesize lessons, the Oak National Academy, even TED talks for kids.
By going online to keep my family entertained and connected to the world I can comfort myself that I’m following government advice. The website gov.uk tells me that if feeling ‘bored, frustrated or lonely’ I can find ‘lots of free tutorials and courses online’ and recommends ‘innovative online solutions like online pub quizzes and streamed live music concerts.’ And for children the Department of Education, my local librarians, and everyone else, even Learn to Love to Read, have published lists of recommended online activities.
But what if you don’t have the devices or data to access these resources?
It’s the situation for over 500,000 children in the UK: children who cannot go online using a computer at home, according to charity The Learning Foundation: that’s one in ten of all school children. This leaves them unable to access all the free educational resources and activities that more fortunate families can take for granted.
If this was already a problem before Covid-19, now it’s a full-blown crisis.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman is ‘seriously worried’ about the impact the pandemic will have on the educational divide. The Sutton Trust reports that in the most deprived schools, 15% of teachers say that more than a third of their students learning from home do not have adequate access to an electronic device for learning and 12% also felt that more than a third of their students are without adequate internet access.
At Learn to Love to Read this is exactly what we’re seeing on the ground. We know from our partner schools that some children have access to very limited resources during lockdown: unable to get online and with very few materials for reading, writing and playing.
This is a picture that will strike a chord with anyone who’s spent any amount of time in a confined space with small children.
We’re a small charity but we’ve been working hard to help make a difference. We’ve put together and delivered over 350 Reading for Pleasure packs to Wandsworth families via our partner schools. (Thanks to Give A Book, Carddies, Storytime Magazine, Anorak Magazine, Bounce Theatre, Kookie Magazine, Olympia Publishers and Carter’s Yard Phonics for their contributions and to the Wandsworth Grant Fund, the Wimbledon Foundation and the Travers Smith Foundation for their funding.)
And we are very glad to have played a small part in getting some families online, by recognising the need early, researching the options, identifying Keep Kids Connected as the most likely source and linking them with our partner schools. Keep Kids Connected are doing amazing work sourcing, preparing and distributing laptops and devices to those who need them most – please consider donating an old laptop if you have one.
By getting extra resources and support to the families who need them most, we’re making sure children locked out of their schools don’t lose the habit of reading and learning – and that parents struggling to do their best for their kids in particularly tough circumstances don’t feel like they’re on their own.
Lockdown may be keeping us apart physically, but from the clap-for-carers to neighbourhood volunteer networks we’ve already seen so many ways in which it is bringing us more closely together.
Let’s do our best to ensure that when this crisis is over, our community comes out stronger. You can either click here if you have a laptop or tablet to donate to Keep Kids Connected or here if you would like to donate to the Reading for Pleasure packs being distributed by Learn to Love to Read.
Volunteer Recruitment and Fundraising, Learn to Love to Read