UK

Mail Force drive: Former Navy engineer refurbishes old computers for schools

A million children have no laptops for lessons: Former Navy engineer refurbishes old computers for schools as part of Mail Force drive to help needy pupils during lockdown… as research shows 14m devices are lying unused in our home

  • 14million spare computers are sitting in cupboards and drawers in lockdown
  • The Daily Mail is campaigning to raise money for new and refurbished laptops
  • Research found the public thinks learning equipment is important for children
  • Schools are only open for vulnerable children and those of key workers 

Almost one million children do not have laptops for online lessons – while millions of devices are lying unused in homes across Britain.

According to research, 14million spare computers are sitting in cupboards and drawers as many pupils struggle to learn while schools are shut in lockdown.

The Daily Mail is campaigning to raise money for new and refurbished laptops for pupils.

Research by the Department for Opportunities charity found the public thinks learning equipment is the most important resource for a child after food. In lockdown, schools are only open for vulnerable children and those of key workers, with teachers providing online learning or parents teaching their children.

Phil Macrae (pictured), 33, runs a computer repair workshop and is devoting his spare time to refurbishing old devices donated after he appealed on Facebook

Navy man on mission to help out 

A former Royal Navy engineer is using his skills to help children struggling without laptops while their schools are shut.

Phil Macrae, 33, now runs a computer repair workshop and is devoting his spare time to refurbishing old devices donated after he appealed on Facebook.

In just five weeks he has spent more than 350 hours rebuilding 250 second-hand computers which have been given to more than 30 schools in the West Midlands.

He travelled all over the world in the Navy and completed two operational tours in Afghanistan before returning to the UK last year.

Mr Macrae then set up his computer repair firm called The Speedy Bear and works out of a modest annexe of a house in Coventry.

‘I could combine my passion for fixing computers with my drive to help people,’ he said. ‘I owe much of my tenacity, drive and technical know-how to the Navy. The schools are elated to receive support.’

Raised in a deprived area of Glasgow, he said that he too had struggled to find the right books and equipment for school. 

For some 904,000 pupils, learning has been near impossible without access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home, the charity said.

Even before the pandemic, there was a digital divide, it added. Nearly seven in ten children who own a laptop succeed in their GCSEs compared to just three in ten who lack one, according to the National Children’s Bureau.

The public places high importance on children being able to learn digitally, with 62 per cent saying it is second in importance only to food.

Overall, 93 per cent believe it is important for schoolchildren to have access to a laptop and internet during the pandemic. But few donate IT equipment to charity compared to clothes, books, toys and games.

More than one in five people own a working laptop or tablet that they no longer use, according to a YouGov poll.

But only 8 per cent have ever donated any computer equipment. If just one in 14 of these spare laptops were donated, every child in the UK would have the tools to learn during Covid-19.

The Mail’s campaign is only accepting old devices donated by companies. But there are many schemes across the UK that accept donations of computers and tablets from individuals. You can find one near you via https://techforuk.com/donate-your-tech/

The Department for Opportunities is among charities calling for old devices to be donated by post, collection or at a drop-off point.

Its head Sarah Atkinson said: ‘Every child has a right to learn. But millions from low-income families are facing a further barrier due to a lack of technology.

‘If anyone has a spare working laptop or tablet hidden away somewhere, please dig it out.’

Mail Force has been crisscrossing Britain making deliveries of laptops to schools. Among the most recent recipients is 12-year-old Eva Wielgosz (pictured)

Mail Force has been crisscrossing Britain making deliveries of laptops to schools. Among the most recent recipients is 12-year-old Eva Wielgosz (pictured)

Former minister Alan Milburn, chairman of the charity, said: ‘Covid-19 has taken a wrecking ball to social mobility. By donating a spare device, the public can help level the playing field.’

Mail Force, a charity set up last year to buy PPE, is buying new laptops and refurbishing used ones donated by companies. 

HOW TO DONATE TO COMPUTERS FOR KIDS 

CLICK HERE TO DONATE 

TO YOU, THE READER: How to send us donations 

The Daily Mail has launched a brand new campaign, Computers For Kids, to raise money for Mail Force – a charity which aims to provide much needed school equipment and resources for pupils across the UK learning from home.

With schools closed, we are left with the dilemma of hundreds of thousands of pupils in the UK having no access to a computer in their home.

As part of this campaign, companies are donating their old laptops which, for around £15, can be wiped, professionally refurbished and made safe and fit for home schooling. They can then be delivered to a child or young person who needs one.

In addition, the campaign is looking to support children’s needs in other ways such as funding brand new laptops and tablets, and assisting with data access and connectivity for online learning. Any surplus funds will be used to support of the work of UK schools via other means.

TO MAKE A DONATION ONLINE

Visit mailforcecharity.co.uk/donate and follow the steps to complete your donation. 

Please don’t send us your old device.

TO COMPANIES: Could you give your old laptops?

Upgrading office computers is something all companies do from time to time – and there has never been a better time to donate old laptops. If you are a company with 50 laptops or more that you could give, please visit www.computacenter.com/daily-mail to check they are suitable and register your donation. We will arrange for collection by our specialist partners Computacenter. Please note: we cannot accept donated laptops from individuals.

COMPANIES SHOULD GO TO: computacenter.com/daily-mail 

TO SCHOOLS: Where to apply for the computers

Schools must apply to the Department for Education, which is managing the demand and prioritising the schools most in need. The Mail Force initiative means more laptops will become available more quickly.

SCHOOLS CAN APPLY HERE: https://get-help-with-tech.education.gov.uk

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