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People's Fund for Disadvantaged Students

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My name is James Simms, I am a teacher of over 20 years experience and the owner of The EverLearner , an online educational platform run entirely by teachers, for teachers and learners around the world.

In January 2021, we set aside a fund of £10k for teachers to apply for in order to help their most disadvantaged learners during the national lockdown. Within only one working day this fund was depleted and the stories we have been hearing from our fellow colleagues up and down the country are nothing short of harrowing. Put simply, students need more help and teachers are desperate to help them, but the funds are just not there.

It is not just personal stories like these that are causing us to act, the statistics in the press are painting a very similar story.

Ofcom estimates there are still 1.7 million children still without electronic devices at home and of those, 880,000 only have access to a mobile internet connection. The children’s commissioner for England expressed deep concern, saying there will be a “devastating impact for a generation ” unless there is an urgent overhaul of the help given to these disadvantaged children. 

Schools are currently expected to offer “high quality remote lessons with children doing three to five hours of learning each day ”. With this being the case, the need for intervention for these children is extremely important. Only 51% of households with an income between £6-10,000 have internet access, compared to 99% of households with an income of £40,000 or more. 

A survey carried out by Teach First, found that only 2% of teachers working in the most disadvantaged schools, believed they had sufficient access to digital devices at home. Russell Hobby, Teach First CEO, commented: “This is a stark reminder of the significant challenges faced by schools serving disadvantaged communities. It’s not right that some children will fall further behind at school simply because their families can’t afford laptops and internet access .” 

Access to devices is not the only challenge faced by students. Data usage is another barrier that a significant number are facing. Whilst major phone companies are offering increased data packages, this is very restrictive and is only offered to those with pay-monthly contracts. This does not address a pressing issue - the vast majority of children from less affluent areas will only have ‘pay as you go’ phones. 

The issue is clear and the need for action is urgent. As much as I would love to personally continue topping up this fund to help disadvantaged learners, I have a duty to our users to keep our site running. I am therefore calling on people to join us in helping teachers and learners nationwide, and I am calling on other firms, like ours, to step up and match our offer. 

Our model is a very simple one. We will allocate the money directly to the classroom teacher, overseen by their headteacher (via the school finance office) who can buy or invest in exactly what the individual students need. This is targeted intervention and will get straight to the heart of the issue the student is experiencing.

Together we can do so much more to fight against this digital divide and allow students, irrespective of their socio-economic background, to access high-quality education.

Finally, I am interested to hear from individuals who would like to oversee our process of awarding the money. It is important to us that our processes are transparent and fair and colleagues with experience of charitable donations and/or schools would be welcomed to observe how we do this.

Fundraising team (4)

James Simms
Elle Houghton
Team member
Mark Mills
Team member
Marta Soteras Munt
Team member

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