Rival titles unite across the North to launch campaign to raise £1.2m to get kids online during lockdown home-school

Some of the front pages in support of Cash for Connectivity

More than 40 digital and print local and regional news brands across the North of England have united behind a new campaign to help ensure children are not left in the digital slow-lane during lockdown 3 homeschool.

Titles from Reach PLC, Newsquest and JPI Media have joined behind InYourArea.co.uk and Laptops For Kids to raise £1.2million to purchase 100,000 internet-enabled dongles.

The devices will be made available to households where one family may be sharing just one mobile-phone hotspot to try and run home-school and other

Cash for Connectivity builds on a number of campaigns to help tackle a lack of laptops for children and digital exclusion in various communities across the North.

Research by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership estimates there are 320,000 children across the North of England without access to a laptop, 86,000 with no access to the internet and a further 141,000 relying on internet via a mobile-internet connection only.

The campaign launched on Wednesday (27 January) evening with rival newspapers across the North including the Newcastle Chronicle, Northern Echo, Liverpool Echo, St Helens Star, Manchester Evening News and Huddersfield Examiner uniting their front pages to urge readers to donate.

This was accompanied by extensive coverage and endorsements from politicians and councils of all party-political leanings, as well as a number of leading businesses in many parts of the North.

Those backing the campaign include shadow secretary of state for digital, Chi Onwurah MP who gave her full endorsement to ChronicleLive’s aim to raise £35,000 towards the total.

And the campaign also received the support of West Rainton mum Victoria Bewick who told how received a laptop from her daughter’s school and it was making all the difference.

Victoria Bewick and daughter Amelia Bewick,6, from West Rainton, who has been given a laptop by her school

In Cheshire they led with the ‘scandal’ of children being left behind and received the backing of Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury, in Greater Manchester the M.E.N received the backing of shadow minister for education Kate Green MP as well as deputy head of St Mary’s Catholic High School in Wigan, Lee Peachey.

And the Warrington Guardian received the support of Warrington South MP, Andy Carter who said: “Over the last six months I’ve worked with a number of companies who’ve donated laptops to schools in some of the most deprived areas of our town but we haven’t reached every child yet so I’m very pleased to be able to support the Warrington Guardian’s campaign for better digital connectivity amongst disadvantaged households.

The Liverpool Echo received a donation straight away from TV presenter and former Big Brother winner Craig Phillips in support of their fundraising.

At the Northern Echo there was support from Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison and Durham City MP Mary Foy.

YorkshireLive’s campaign launch piece featured the struggle of Sheffield father-of-three Robert Robinson in trying to run his own business and home-school three children during the pandemic.

YorkshireLive told how Robert Robinson had struggled to pay the internet and mobile data bills since his children, including eldest Rane, had been home-schooling

HullLive called on its readers to help the ‘lost children of lockdown’ and received support from Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West and Hessle.

And in Lancashire, Reach’s LancsLive, Newsquest’s Lancashire Telegraph, JPI’s Lancashire Post — along with hyperlocals Stand Up For Southport and Blog Preston - are uniting in support of the fundraising efforts.

Luke Beardsworth, Editor of LancsLive, said: “It’s great to see news organisations pulled together in this way to make an impact but clearly isn’t something that should be necessary.

“No Internet connection means kids are missing out on learning but it also means some kids are being sent into school as a result. This will help us make a difference, and quickly, where it is needed.”

Over in Teesside and the team at Teesside Live received support from a host of organisations and politicians, including Mayor of Middlesbrough Andy Preston as well as the support of rock legend Paul Rodgers who is also making a financial contribution to the campaign. The Teesside newsroom is already a third of the way towards the fundraising target editor Ian McNeal has set.

Grimsby Live received the backing of the town’s Olympic gold medallist Hollie Arnold MBE.

She said: “The Cash for Connectivity campaign is a step in the right direction to let all kids fulfil their full potential and reach their chosen goals.”

Infographics showing the lack of connectivity were provided to all titles by the Reach Data Unit and a shared leader column and opinion piece co-written by former Liverpool Echo editor-in-chief Alastair Machray MBE and InYourArea’s Ed Walker featured in many titles.

Funds raised go to the Laptops for Kids campaign, launched by Sheffield technology entrepreneur David Richards and supported by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

David Richards

David Richards, founder and CEO of data software company WANdisco plc, said: “This is a quick and inexpensive fix to an urgent social problem and we encourage readers to donate.

“Connectivity is as important as water and should be freely available to those in need. Together we can help end the data drought in the North of England.”

More than £10,000 has already been donated within the first 24-hours of the campaign — enough to buy 833 devices.

You can donate here via the GoFundMe page.

Reach PLC’s audience and content director for regionals, Ed Walker

Editor-in-chief of InYourArea and Reach’s audience and content director for its regional titles, Ed Walker, thanked all of the editors and journalists for uniting behind the campaign and for their hard work in getting it ready to launch.

He said: “It’s an ambitious target and we’ve already seen some very generous donations from readers across the North.

“When it’s issues like our children’s future, then it’s been heartening to see fellow editors and journalists in the North of England put rivalries aside to join together in support of Cash for Connectivity.

“Days like today always help to remind me of why I am proud to be an editor, and a journalist, and work in this industry. We have the capacity to do an awful lot of good as well as tell people what’s happening in their communities.”

Full list of titles backing the campaign

Liverpool Echo
Manchester Evening News, including MyWigan, MyBolton, MySalford and MyBury
Chronicle Live including Sunderland Live, Northumberland Live, County Durham Live
InYourArea
Teesside Live
Yorkshire Live including Leeds Live, ExaminerLive, South Yorkshire Live, North Yorkshire Live
Hull Live
Grimsby Live
Cheshire Live
LancsLive
Cumbria Live
Chester Chronicle
Huddersfield Examiner
Newcastle Chronicle
Newcastle Journal
Grimsby Telegraph
Hull Daily Mail
Teesside Gazette
Accrington Observer
Rossendale Free Press
Southport Visiter
Northern Echo
St Helens Star
Warrington Guardian
Lancashire Telegraph
Bolton News
Lancashire Post
Blackpool Gazette
JPI North West titles
Stand Up For Southport
Blog Preston

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