SCHOOL leaders have praised a group of volunteers after 50 laptops were delivered to their schools – with another 50 on the way.

Witney ALBS (Access to Learning Beyond School) was set up during the first lockdown, and has been helping out local schools with the provision of laptops and tablets.

Last year, while mayor of Witney at the start of the pandemic, Duncan Enright received a call from his friend Jo Browne, a teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School in Witney.

She explained to Mr Enright the difficulty many children were having with remote learning.

See also: Churchill pub launches community kitchen to feed vulnerable

Funds were then raised by Witney ALBS, and 400 packs including pens, paints and whiteboards were sent to schools. Science packs were also distributed.

Now, the group is seeking donations of old laptops and tablets for children to use while home schooling.

Computer repair shop Ability Systems in Witney’s High Street has been helping with the technical side of things, such as wiping the memories of the laptops, to get them ready for pupils to use at home.

Read more: Warning after spate of burglaries at farms

Mr Enright said: “We know that there are still very many students who need computers at home.

“Some are studying on phones, which is frankly never going to be adequate.

“Thanks so much to those who have donated.

“Our work will continue until every child has what they need.”

Duncan Enright (right) with devices for pupils at The Henry Box School

Duncan Enright (right) with devices for pupils at The Henry Box School

Rebecca Goddard, deputy headteacher at The Henry Box School, highlighted the barriers students are facing when it comes to remote learning.

She said: “We are so grateful to have received the refurbished laptops and tablets.

“Although many of our students are lucky enough to have their own laptop or tablet to access their remote learning, many others are sharing family devices with siblings and with parents who are working from home, making access for the whole family a real issue.

“Other students are working on mobile phones or through games consoles, neither of which can give them the best learning experience.

See more: Driver reported after ‘careless driving and overtaking’ PCSOs

“As we have moved forwards so much with our remote learning provision, it is vital that students are able to easily access Satchel One, their learning platform, Microsoft Teams for live lessons, and play pre-recorded lessons in order to not fall behind.

“This means that in an ideal world they have their own laptop, computer or tablet.

“These donations, along with the small number of Department for Education (DfE) laptops that we have received, will really help us to support those students who currently are struggling.

“The devices will continue to be of huge importance when students are back in school, as they will allow them to complete their homework and coursework effectively.”

Read more: Police urge sexual assault victims to come forward

Rob Shadbolt, headteacher at Wood Green School, added: “Students at Wood Green School have five live lessons per day online with their teachers so good access to the internet has become even more essential.

“We have been inundated with requests for laptops from families who are struggling to access remote learning, usually because the number of people in the household needing to access work and learning from home is now so high.

Pupils in years 10 and 12 have returned to schools across Oxfordshire. Picture: Wood Green School

Pupils in Years 10 and 12 after returning to school in the summer. Picture: Wood Green School

“Although we have had some laptops from the national scheme, and used our reserves to buy more ourselves, these additional laptops from the community will make a great difference to students who are desperately trying to do their best with their work.

“This is another great example of the Witney community pulling together to support each other through this pandemic.”

Witney ALBS’ core group of founders includes teachers, governors, volunteers and councillors from the town.

For more details, please visit their Facebook page at Witney ALBS.

The DfE is providing schools and local authorities with support through its ‘Get help with technology’ programme. Parents and carers should contact their school for more information.