A package

Earlier this year, Wrexham Council received a parcel – not a small one though, this one contained 2,230 Chromebooks!

Over the last year and a half, as children across the country have spent a great deal of time being home schooled, and many children across Wales have struggled to do the work they needed because they didn’t have access to the internet-connected devices necessary.

In Wrexham during the first lockdown, the Newmark Foundation were kind enough to donate 125 Chromebooks for young people in year 11 who were struggling to access a computer.

This latest delivery has come from Welsh Government, which has recognised the problem and is looking to address it in the long term for Wrexham pupils.

These 2,230 Chromebooks will be available to those children in year 4 and upwards, who are eligible for free schools meals and don’t have a device at home that can be used for their school work.

Matt Vickery, headteacher at Ysgol Clywedog, said: “The arrival of these chromebooks after the second lockdown, as well as the generosity of parents, staff and the Newmark Foundation during the first lockdown, have meant that we now have chromebooks available to all students in years 10 and 11, as well as those eligible for free school meals in years 7 to 9. We also have WiFi connection passwords for those who need them after our successful applications to BT and Vodafone.

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“The chromebooks from Welsh Government will also mean that as new pupils arrive in our school and as some become newly eligible for free school meals, we will be able to make sure they also have a chromebook to take home. No pupil should be at a disadvantage caused by not being able to access a computer.

“Ensuring our pupils have access to these chromebooks had a visible effect during the two lockdowns. The first time around, 25% of pupils were logging into the live, online lessons regularly, but in January this year that figure shot up to 86%.

“Continued use of the donated laptops, and having access to the new ones from Welsh Government, means that if pupils need to isolate in the future we are confident that everyone will be able to continue to access everything they need for their education.”

Catrin Pritchard, headteacher at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, said: “These chromebooks have been really important to us in Ysgol Morgan Llwyd. Our aim as we came out of lockdown was to make sure that no pupil was left struggling, and being able to make sure all of our pupils had the necessary IT equipment and internet access to take part in home learning was a huge part of this.

“We started by making sure that all pupils had the equipment they needed, prioritising those children who were eligible for free school meals, ensuring all pupils had an equal opportunity to learn. When pupils did return to school, funding from Welsh Government meant we were able to employ mentors who supported those less engaged with their school work during lockdown.

“While we are all hoping that we don’t have to go back to home learning, we are still working to make sure all of our pupils have the equipment they need to access all of the digital learning platforms we use. If your child is in Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, is receiving free school meals and doesn’t have the equipment to get online at home, please contact us as we may be able to provide it for you.”

Cllr Phil Wynn, lead member for people – education, said: “The arrival of these Chromebooks is brilliant news for so many pupils who have found themselves digitally excluded. I would like to thank Welsh Government for addressing a problem that so many children have faced and recognising that not being able to afford such equipment should not stand in the way of a child’s education.

“I would also like to thank our ICT department who have gone the extra mile to make sure that all of the new Chromebooks are configured for use with the schools’ IT infrastructure. This was no small task, but one that meant pupils would be able to get the best out of their new computer.”

Throughout the pandemic, Wrexham Council’s ICT Support Team have provided a huge amount of support for schools to make sure that pupils have been able to get the most out of digital learning. Here are just a few of the projects they have worked on:

  • Upgrading all schools’ IT infrastructure following a £1.3M investment from Welsh Government as part of the Hwb EdTech Transformation Programme. This means that the IT systems in schools are able to support the new curriculum and its increasing integration of digital technologies for learners and teachers.
  • All schools now use the new PSBA WebSafe solution that provides a significant upgrade to all schools’ broadband.
  • Working with Welsh Government and Wrexham’s schools we have provided ongoing digital support for Wrexham’s digitally excluded young people, providing refurbished laptops, new Chromebooks and Mobile Internet devices (MiFi). Approximately 380 additional devices have been provided directly by Wrexham Council with support to refurbish old school and corporate laptops.
  • Configuration and distribution of 125 donated Chromebooks from the Newmark Charity to those year 11 and in need of digital support.

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