A HEADTEACHER has spoken of the ‘digital divide’ affecting pupils, after a local company donated laptops to help students access learning during lockdown.

Sherryl Bareham of The Dorcan Academy received five new laptops from Westbury-based Priority IT, to fill the gap left by government provision.

She said: “It’s really kind that local companies are thinking about how they can support schools during these times.

“The digital divide is a huge problem for schools. During lockdown we’ve been setting work online but until recently quite a number of our students didn’t have a laptop.

“So if you’re setting work online, then you’re obviously excluding all those children who haven’t got access to devices to allow them to take part in that.

“If half your students can’t access it, it doesn’t matter how good a live lesson you might do, if they can’t see it then you’ve actually disadvantaged your students from their teachers input,” said Mrs Bareham.

In order to cope with the situation the school sent out hard-copy work packs to ensure all pupils could continue their learning.

More than 30 percent of the school’s student body receive the pupil premium, a government grant designed to help decrease the attainment gap for disadvantaged children.

“Of course there’s quite a lot of families who don’t receive the pupil premium and are just living a little bit above that, but still basically can’t afford digital devices,” Mrs Bareham said.

The school had originally been allocated 24 laptops for pupils to use during lockdown by the government.

“But we still had many pupils who didn’t have access to one,” said Mrs Bareham. “The government laptops go to students who meet a particular criteria. Whereas we’ve got other students who don’t necessarily meet the criteria but still haven’t got laptops.

“We had to provide quite a bit of extra evidence to the government - communicating with parents finding out what they had and hadn’t got. In the end they upped our allocation to 57 laptops, which is brilliant but it still hasn’t covered everybody who needs one,” she said.

With the additional computers from Priority IT, now all students studying for their GCSEs next year can use an appropriate device.

Mrs Bareham said: “These additional laptops certainly have gone some way to alleviate the problem and help more students access their lessons. Now we haven’t got anybody in year ten who has said they need a device who hasn’t got one.

“The government prioritise year 10 because obviously they’ve got their exams next year. But to be honest that isn’t taking into account pupils in year seven, eight and nine who might need them to access lessons.”

Priority IT started its laptop refurbishment initiative after requests come at the start of lockdown from those who were having to home school and couldn’t afford new or second-hand laptops.

Kieran Thomas, managing director of said: “We came up with an idea to help out.

“We've been asking local businesses and individuals to donate any unloved laptops to us. We then securely wipe the data on them, test, upgrade and then donate to any individual, school, charity or organisation to help with home schooling.

“This showed me and my team the extent of the digital divide,” Kieran said.