More than 200 laptops have been refurbished and donated to secondary school pupils to help them keep learning even when they are away from the classroom.

Courtney Hughes BEM BCAv, award-winning founder of festive fundraiser Secret Santa 365, was contacted by many concerned parents from Didcot during January who did not have sufficient technology to allow their children to engage effectively in remote learning.

In a bid to help children’s education Ms Hughes, a former pupil of Didcot Girls’ School, launched Laptops for Learners, an appeal for donations of laptops and tablets that could be refurbished and distributed to students to help them continue their education whilst away from the classroom.

The initiative has resulted in a generous technology donation from a local business to help students at two secondary schools in Didcot. Her appeal caught the attention of Bruce and Dawn Philipps, the owners of the Airdri Group in Eynsham. Together with the CEO of the company, Tony Wall, offered to purchase some brand-new laptops to donate to students in need.

Ms Hughes approached staff at Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus School with the exciting news that Aridri was funding a donation of 15 laptops for each school, to be used as part of the schools’ device loan scheme. The project has now seen 210 refurbished devices given to families and individuals across Oxfordshire since January.

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Georgina Littler, Headteacher of Didcot Girls’ School, said: “We know that these laptops will be of tremendous benefit to our students, and we are incredibly grateful for this donation. The connection with Laptops for Learners means a great deal to us, especially as Courtney previously attended Didcot Girls’ School. We are so proud of all she has gone on to achieve and know that many other members of our school community will be inspired by her actions.”

Rachael Warwick, Executive Headteacher of Ridgeway Education Trust, said: “Staff and students at Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus School are tremendously appreciative of the generosity of Dawn and Bruce Philipps and Tony Wall at Airdri, and to Courtney Hughes for initiating the Laptops for Learners campaign at a time when access to technology is so important for all of our young people because of the pandemic.

“It’s another example of the strength of our community and I’m proud of the way our community works together to support our young people.”

The Headteacher of St Birinus School, William Manning, said: “Throughout this pandemic, I have been bowled over by the empathy and generosity of our local community and the relentless support which has been offered to our schools. This incredible donation comes at a time when it is most needed, and students will be enormously grateful.”

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