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Rainham man re-purposes 15 laptops for Oaklands School, Walderslade, as estate agent Robinson, Michael and Jackson offer free printing


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An IT contractor has donated 15 laptops to a school and an estate agent has offered free printing to pupils as a collective effort to support disadvantaged families during lockdown.

Steve Shears, from Rainham, was shocked when 18 out of 30 children from a year four class at Oaklands Primary School were unable to take part in remote learning as they didn't have access to adequate technology.

Steve Shears, of Marshall Road, Rainham has refurbished and donated over 15 devices to school children who don't have access to a computer at home. Picture: Steve Shears
Steve Shears, of Marshall Road, Rainham has refurbished and donated over 15 devices to school children who don't have access to a computer at home. Picture: Steve Shears

His wife, Mary Shears, is a Year 4 teacher at the primary school in Weeds Wood Road.

The Marshall Road resident was further inspired by reports that between 1.1 and 1.8 million children across the country are without internet access.

Steve put out an appeal on Nextdoor.com, a social media platform designed for local communities, for unwanted laptops and iPads and received around 15 devices in the first day.

All of which have now been re-purposed and donated to the school, which have since been handed out to the pupils in need.

The 59-year-old said: "The response was amazing.

Steve donating the devices to the school
Steve donating the devices to the school

"I sanitize each system, both physically and electronically, and load a basic open source operating system on that allows email, internet and Microsoft access.

"Already I have managed to re-purpose 10 of these and given five to the school, with the rest to be deployed early next week.

"If more people in the UK can do this we can go a long way towards addressing the appalling statistic concerning internet access for children.

"I am more than willing to share the methods used, but at the moment I am doing this on my own.

"However, I believe that if a nationwide network of computer professionals was to set up the situation could be reversed very quickly.

Some of the laptops Steve has refurbished for the school
Some of the laptops Steve has refurbished for the school

"One parent explained he has five children all trying to attend the meetings via mobile phones. This is clearly not acceptable.

"It's not only important for them to have access to the internet but also the social interaction that it gives.

"Because of lockdown they can't interact with other children as they would do normally in school.

"I think it's something that needs to happen. It's something that we can do something about so lets get out there and do it.

"Anything with an internet access is the way to go. A games console, a smart TV, it will all work. It's the real spirit of the Brits, pulling together to find the ways round it."

Branch manager Catherine Stuart, left, and assistant manager Kayleigh Bushell, right, from the Robinson, Michael and Jackson Barnehurst letting office. Picture: Robinson, Michael and Jackson
Branch manager Catherine Stuart, left, and assistant manager Kayleigh Bushell, right, from the Robinson, Michael and Jackson Barnehurst letting office. Picture: Robinson, Michael and Jackson

An estate agent has also answered the call to help vulnerable families during this period of home-schooling.

Robinson, Michael and Jackson has launched a free printing service for pupils who don't have access to a printer at home.

It's encouraged families to send classwork via email that is needed on paper rather than a computer screen.

Individuals will then be contacted to arrange safe collection of the files from one of the businesses' offices in Gravesend, Medway or Sittingbourne.

Managing partner Simon Woodcock said: "What the lockdown has done has shown how important now, more than ever, it is to support local.

"We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boats."

"The idea came from one of the industry groups I am a member of on Facebook.

"Someone from a company in the north decided to try to help out, as soon as I saw and heard what he was doing I knew we had to do the same in our areas.

"We need to support each other locally, I describe it best that we are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boats, everything we can do to help out locally really can go a long way to improving someone's day."

To find out more about the printing, click here.

To contact Steve about donating a device, email laptops4schools@marshallsoft.co.uk

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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