Raspberry Pi has committed to distributing more of its low-cost computers to UK schools to support remote learning.
The British PC maker teamed up with young person’s charity UK Youth as well as a number of other youth and community organizations in 2020 as part of efforts to get Raspberry Pi devices to disadvantaged children in the UK, who have been forced to learn from home due to the UK’s third coronavirus lockdown.
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Raspberry Pi said it was on track to deliver its 5,000th Raspberry Pi kit in March, after receiving donations worth £900,000 ($1.26m) through its Learn at Home fundraiser campaign.
The scheme aimed to get Raspberry Pi 4 desktop kits complete with monitors, webcams, and headphones into the hands of disadvantaged young people who didn’t have a computer to learn at home and who didn’t qualify for the UK government’s official laptop scheme.
The company also trained youth workers and teachers and worked with families to make sure that they could set up and use the computers.
Chief executive Philip Colligan said the company had seen “an incredible rise” in the number of people using Raspberry Pi computers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the timely arrival of the Raspberry Pi 400 also boosting sales.
Future phases will involve distributing Raspberry Pi kits through schools, with the computer maker aiming to collect additional feedback from teachers on the impact of the programme.
Colligan said: “One of the harsh lessons we learned last year was that far too many young people still don’t have a computer for learning at home. There has always been a digital divide; the pandemic has just put it centre-stage. The good news is that the cost of solving this problem is now trivial compared to the cost of allowing it to persist.”
Under newly unveiled plans for the easing of the UK’s third – and possibly, final – lockdown, all schoolchildren are set to return to school on 8 March.
The majority of children have been forced to learn remotely since the start of the year. The UK government has pledged to distribute some 1.3million laptops and tablets to the most in-need children under its Get Help with Technology scheme, which has so far cost an estimated £400m.
The pace of the rollout drew scrutiny as many children were left waiting for equipment to arrive, while the digital divide among pupils continued to grow unchecked. Figures from social mobility charity the Sutton Trust in January revealed that more than half of private school teachers said all their students had devices for home learning, compared to just to 5% of teachers in state schools.
Similarly, in January 2021 just one in 10 teachers reported that all their students had adequate access to a device for remote learning.
Colligan said: “While the pandemic shone a bright spotlight onto the digital divide, this isn’t just a problem while we are in lockdown. We’ve known for a long time that having a computer to learn at home can be transformational for any young person.”