Ipswich Academy has loaned 219 laptops to students needing computers for schoolwork during the Covid-19 crisis – amid fears over a “digital divide”.

Schools across the country were forced to shut in March as part of the coronavirus lockdown.

Although primaries and secondaries have been allowed to reopen in a limited way since June, pupils are still doing most of their learning at home.

Yet that has posed huge challenges for some students, not least if they do not have access to the internet or computer devices to access educational materials online.

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Some schools have introduced lessons by screencasts or video conferencing – but some families have only one computer for the household.

Alternatively, some young people have had to rely on mobile phones which are unsuited to day-long learning.

Abbie Thorrington, incoming principal of Ipswich Academy, said a ‘digital divide’ was a “massive” issue for many families.

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So far, the Paradigm Trust school has loaned 219 laptops to pupils so they can watch pre-recorded virtual lessons or access Google Classroom.

It has also given out 49 dongles with free internet data for pupils who might not have wi-fi at home.

Miss Thorrington said: “We still have additional laptops, so if parents are saying their laptop has broken or they can’t afford wi-fi this month, we might still be able to help.”

Ipswich Academy is not the only school to have loaned laptops to young people during the crisis.

Fellow Paradigm Trust school, Pipers Vale Academy, decided to loan its limited number of Chromebooks to Year 6 children, judging them to be most in need because of their impending transition to secondary school.

In total, 85% of year-six pupils borrowed a Chromebook for learning at home.

“A big issue we’re well aware of is a lack of wi-fi broadband and a lack of devices,” said Pipers Vale principal Kimberly Morton.

“There’s a digital divide – lots of families don’t have access to online learning platforms.”

Ipswich’s Copleston High School reconfigured 120 laptops usually used within normal lessons and activities for students’ use during the coronavirus crisis.

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Several Suffolk schools have also benefited of donations of Chromebooks and free internet data on dongles from the company Drax.