Press Release

Brand new Kindles have been donated to a primary school in north-east Essex to “future-proof” education and help children catch up on their learning and development as lockdown eases.

Colchester-based community broadband specialist County Broadband has provided an initial batch of 10 new tablets to St Andrew’s Primary School in Weeley.

Staff and parents praised the donation and said it will improve home-schooling now and after pupils return with blended learning – a mix of traditional classroom study and online catch-up lessons – set to become the ‘new normal’ post-pandemic.

Mrs Diane Fawcett, Headteacher at St Andrew’s Primary school said: “We are extremely grateful to County Broadband for donating these devices to some of our families. The demands of working remotely – both the reliance on technology but also the strain on people’s emotional and mental health – are huge.

“Gifting these devices will have far reaching benefits, not just for the children’s ability to learn remotely, but also for supporting their interaction with friends and family members, whilst social restrictions remain in place. Not having to negotiate the sharing of devices with working parents will enable less pressure on the relationships in our families’ households and improve wellbeing as much as academic achievement.”

The campaign follows the government announcement that all schools will reopen on March 8. However, even once children return to the classroom, e-learning is expected to play an important role in helping pupils get up to speed whilst also supporting families who have to isolate.

A parent whose child received one of the donations said: “It is so heart-warming to know that we are thought of and the children are so excited to have been selected to receive one of these Kindles. It will make learning at home easier and more fun. Having a shiny new device to use will motivate my children and give me more peace and quiet to manage working from home!”

There are concerns a digital divide will emerge with children who don’t have access to equipment being put at a disadvantage. According to Ofcom, just under 10% of children do not have a laptop, tablet or desktop at home whilst over 800,000 rely on an expensive mobile internet connection instead of a fixed line broadband service.

County Broadband’s campaign to help future-proof education is part of a wider initiative to ensure rural homes and businesses across East Anglia have access to reliable full-fibre broadband to “future-proof” broadband connections for decades to come.

The firm is committed to building this new broadband infrastructure which delivers fibre cables directly into the home. The connectivity provides significantly faster and more reliable speeds than existing Superfast networks which are often marketed as fibre, but rely on slow copper cables from the Victorian era which cannot be upgraded.

Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband, said: “We are very pleased to donate these much-needed devices and support our local communities. We hope they’ll be a huge help for teachers, parents and children – both now in tough times and to help embrace future e-learning.

“We’re very much looking to the future with our rollout of full-fibre broadband infrastructure across rural north-east Essex and this vision goes hand-in-hand with schools and communities also looking to future-proof themselves with access to the right, modern technology.

“I think this has been one of the major lessons of the pandemic for everyone. Homes and businesses have just about managed with the current copper-based broadband infrastructure but we can’t rest on our laurels. The demand for data will only continue to grow which is we’re working to ensure communities are digitally ready for the coming years with our hyperfast full-fibre networks.”