Our last blog highlighted how free schools have successfully adapted to the daunting situation the education sector finds itself in. The hard work of many free schools during this pandemic has demonstrated why they exist in the first place – to provide better opportunities to children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Over the past two months’, free schools have launched various initiatives to support their communities. According to both the Chair of the Education Select Committee the Rt Hon. Robert Halfon MP, and the Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield, over 700,000 students found themselves without access to either broadband or a suitable remote learning device. As the Government’s plan to deliver devices to disadvantaged students has been blighted by delays, free schools have innovated to overcome the digital barrier through local solutions.
New Bridge Academy, in Oldham, provided 800 of its students with an electronic device to support learning. Similarly, the Co-op Academies Trust has provided over 1,000 devises across its schools in the North-West of England to facilitate remote learning. The XP trust, located in Doncaster, went beyond meeting the needs of their disadvantaged students and focused on improving digital literacy rate of parents. They established a technical support centre and created a series of YouTube videos demonstrating how parents can troubleshoot the technical issues that they and their children may face.
London Academy of Excellence Tottenham (LAET), sponsored by Tottenham Hotspur FC, has worked with supporters at Highgate School and other partners to raise over £75,000 for a Coronavirus Support Fund, which provides financial support to pupils and local charities. In addition, it has used its state-of-the art design and technology facilities to produce over 1,000 protective face shields for frontline workers in North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust and other hospitals and GP surgeries across London.
These free schools have demonstrated tremendous dedication to not only support a child’s education but their welfare during the COVID-19 crisis. We at New Schools Network would like to express our gratitude to school leaders, teachers, and staff who make it happen and look forward to reporting on more of their great work in the future.