SCORES of businesses have responded to the needs of vulnerable children forced to learn from home after the latest round of Covid restrictions saw schools shift to remote teaching.

North-East business across County Durham, Teesside and Tyne and Wear have stepped up to offer laptops and data packages to children who do not have access to the internet or a device, while others have pivoted their services to make home learning a little easier for families.

Teesside tech entrepreneur Dean Benson, chief executive of Stockton-based e-commerce software firm Visualsoft, has made a personal £20,000 donation in the fight against digital poverty during lockdown and school closures.

Mr Benson said: “I’m born and bred in Teesside and have been involved in technology for decades, it just felt like the right thing to do.

“These children made to learn from home will be speaking to friends who all have laptops that their parents have bought them, but not everyone has that privilege. 

“It shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right, like turning on the tap and getting water. And they will be, I would think, one day when tech is flying around the sky and laptops are ten a penny. 

“But right now I just wanted to do as much as I could to encourage others to do the same.”

Middlesbrough-based Unity Tech Group has donated 20 unlimited data SIM cards – worth nearly £4,000 – and five laptops, which will help disadvantaged children work from home.

Sunderland Software City, which focuses on growing the region’s tech sector, has donated ten laptops to support people who are struggling to access remote education.

Jill McKinney, head of skills and training at the organisation said: “Access to education is incredibly important. As part of our skills programmes we had various laptops stored in our office cupboards. When the lockdown announcement was made, we realised these laptops could be put to better use. 

“We’ve now donated them to help individuals who currently lack appropriate IT equipment to access education – so that they can continue to learn through the pandemic.”

The laptops were donated to the charity Springboard North East and Sunderland College.

Sunderland Software City is also working with industry leaders to deliver remote skills sessions for school pupils and is urging technology leaders to get in touch to help. 

North East England Chamber of Commerce is also helping to gather any equipment to pass on to those in need.

Meanwhile, Durham-based Waterstons has published its internal knowledge base to support upskilling during the pandemic.

Waterstons’ Academy includes content across a wide range of topics including automation, finance and LinkedIn, making it more useful to college and university-level students.

Andrew Gill, northern lead at the business consultancy firm, said: “Sharing experience and knowledge with our clients has always been a key part of our DNA at Waterstons. 

“When the pandemic hit, we recognised that one of the things we could do was throw open our virtual doors and invite our brilliant people to share their knowledge across a broad range of areas with our clients and as many people as possible in a new and creative way. 

“We weren’t aiming for overly polished or perfect, we wanted to help as many people as possible develop, learn, and grow regardless of their circumstances during the pandemic. 

“Credit to our amazing people who made this happen; building an online learning platform and delivering a continuous flow of new and varied digital content from May through to October 2020 is a fantastic achievement.” 

With the cancellation of events, meaning no jobs fairs have been able to take place, education technology platform Globalbridge is connecting students with potential employers in the midst of the pandemic. 

Dubbed the 'LinkedIn for juniors' and run by former school staff, during the pandemic Globalbridge has opened its services to new schools and created free virtual events that are by the firm or in partnership with some of our industry leaders such as GSK, Siemens and NBS.

Sam McLoughlin, who looks after education and businesses at the firm said: “Covid has caused mass disruption to the education system highlighted by the cancellation of exams. 

"Students need a modern way to showcase their knowledge, skills, character and achievements. They are more than just grades. Globalbridge provides the platform to help them do just this and connect them to opportunities regardless of their background.”