More than 12,000 digital devices have so far been distributed to Ark’s 38 schools to support remote learning, particularly among disadvantaged students.
This includes more than 5,500 devices provided by the DfE with the additional devices funded by our Coronavirus Appeal last year to ensure that all students in Key Stage 2 and above have access to a school device to support their learning at home by the start of the next academic year.
Our schools have been deploying devices to students in most need to ensure that digital exclusion avoids exacerbating wider attainment gaps. A parent survey undertaken across our schools during the first lockdown revealed that only 48% of students had a suitable device for home learning.
We have also developed new teaching materials, platforms and training to ensure remote learning is supported by the network’s strong curriculum offer. This includes the development of a new home learning platform called SpArk and our work in partnership with Oak National Academy to offer pre-recorded, curriculum-aligned lessons.
As well as providing immediate support for students during the pandemic, our digital strategy seeks to bring longer-term benefits including enhanced independent learning outside school hours and to maximise quality teaching in the classroom.
By the end of last week, we had distributed 12,327 devices. By September, we plan to have distributed a total of up to 24,000.
The release of latest figures on our device distribution follows news from The Sutton Trust who report that almost one in three state schoolteachers say that one in five of their students do not have a suitable device for home working.
Lauren Thorpe, Director of Strategy at Ark, said, “The deployment of 12,000 Chromebooks has enabled all our schools to provide suitable devices to all those students that need them in Key Stage 2 and above. As a result, we have seen high levels of engagement with remote learning during this lockdown.
“It was clear during the first lockdown last year that digital access was a significant impediment to the delivery of high-quality remote learning, and we have worked hard to ensure that these gaps are addressed.
“The experience of the pandemic has accelerated and shaped our long-term thinking on digital, and we are determined to ensure that this brings long-term benefits to ensure all our students have the right tools to support their learning and deliver their attainment goals, regardless of their background.”
One of Ark’s principals, Liam Collins from Ark Alexandra in Hastings, said, “Thanks to Ark's support, we have provided over 370 devices to students to have their own device. Due to that support, our students can engage with our teachers' online learning and minimise any gaps that might develop without this device. Parents and students have been thankful for the Chromebook, especially those with siblings who are now not having to share a device."
Kimberley, whose Year 10 son Jack attends Ark Alexandra, said, “Having a laptop for my son is brilliant as it means we don’t have to share mine. He can log on easily and can start learning as the software is already uploaded. I’m also impressed that his email and IT skills have improved and he’s becoming more tech-savvy. These are key skills that he might not learn now otherwise.”
Device distribution forms part of our digital strategy as well as our response to the pandemic to ensure our students continue to thrive. Alongside enabling digital access for all, the response also helps pupils to catch up on lost learning and protect their wellbeing. Find out more here.
The recovery programme is funded by philanthropic donations to the Coronavirus Appeal, which was launched in the summer. Additional support has been received from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s Community Match Challenge programme.