Capita Local Public Services, together with Young Westminster Foundation and Westminster City Council, delivered the Digital Futures Project to tackle digital exclusion during the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown from March 2020.
The project aimed to provide connectivity and devices to eligible young people (children eligible for Free School Meals) in Westminster when education and children’s services became online during the pandemic.
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the education and future life chances of these pupils as schooling moved online, and 25.4% of Westminster’s 22,714 pupils receive Free School Meals.
To try to help with this issue, the Digital Futures Project worked with 49 schools in Westminster, alongside three wider youth organisations and 10 care leavers to deliver 1,874 devices to disadvantaged children. The project was part of a wider Council ambition for all children who needed a device to have one, which was achieved through Digital Futures and devices provided by DfE – overall 5,249 devices were distributed.
Devices from the Digital Futures scheme were owned and distributed by the schools themselves and loaned to students. The first of the devices were distributed in December, with regular drop-offs over the following months.
Teachers reported that the devices had a very positive impact on student’s attendance, engagement and even on their progress – 90% of schools said children are both better engaged and more easily able to access learning and 57% of schools said their students' wellbeing has increased.
Louisa Lochner, Headteacher at Gateway Academy, said: “These devices will revolutionise our children’s learning, both now and in the future, setting our children on a pathway to success.”
Phil Barron, CEO, Young Westminster Foundation, said: “We’re hugely thankful to Capita for supporting this Westminster partnership; ensuring young people can get online and stay connected during the pandemic.”
Councillor Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, Westminster Council, said: “Capita’s support of the Digital Futures Programme has made a huge difference to disadvantaged Westminster students. With their contribution and others, we have been able to distribute laptops to young people without a device - helping them with their studies during lockdown and ongoing.”
Lakhraj Minhas, Divisional Head of Responsible Business, Capita Government Services, said: “Capita believes businesses can and should be a force for good and we especially seek to support projects that align well with not only our client’s ambitions but with areas we can impact positively as a business. Digital inclusion is one of our key priorities and we are delighted to support the Council to deliver on its vision for an inclusive, fairer Westminster.”
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