COVID 19 is having a desperate effect on a generation of youngsters – an entire generation kept away from their friends, detached from their teachers, wracked by confusion over exams, and worried by uncertainty over their futures.

Children from disadvantaged homes have it worst. School for them is a way out, a place where the provision of resources is a little fairer. But with schools closed, those children find that if their parents or guardians cannot afford the one-off cost of a laptop or a tablet and the on-going expense of an internet connection, their disadvantage will grow.

And their hope and ambition will disappear.

In the north, 10 per cent of children do not have access to a computer and the internet – that’s about 55,000 in the North-East.

But they are just as hungry for learning as any other child, hungry for a passport to a better life in adulthood.

Yesterday, as the Prime Minister – who has often been accused of over-optimism – said schools would not be opening until March 8 at the earliest, so this huge hole will remain for the foreseeable future.

There are many brilliant charities and campaigns, including the Government’s own roll-out, which are trying to provide the laptops, and so today we are joining with other newspapers across the north to launch a campaign to buy the inexpensive ‘dongles’ that will bring reliable internet to every child.

With your help we can connect every child to information, to hope, to ambition and, ultimately, to success.

Please, if you can, join the campaign and help us to help the next generation.