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Distribution helps UK deliver laptops to schools

Figures from Context indicate the impact of the government schemes to get laptops into the hands of students learning from home

Education has been one of the areas where the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact, with schools scrambling to ensure that pupils have the technology to continue to learn from home.

The government has ordered thousands of laptops to share with schools, and the impact of that has been seen in activity across the channel.

The Department for Education (DfE) has made it clear that it aims to get 1.3 million laptops and tablets into the hands of pupils at schools and colleges over the course of the pandemic. Laptops, tablets, 4G routers and free mobile data have been made available under the Get Help with Technology service.

According to market analysis from Context, which gets its numbers directly from distributors across Western Europe, the UK has been the most prolific country in terms of getting PCs into schools.

Over the course of the first lockdown in 2020, half of the laptops shipped at some points in March and June were going into education. Context found that the UK accounted for 36% of all laptops shipped to schools last year in Europe.

Although schools are reopening next week, many university students are continuing to work from home, with many non-practical courses likely to stay that way until the end of the current academic year.

This has helped the momentum remain in the market, with distributors reporting that just over 45% of laptops have been shipped to support remote working students so far this year.

“The UK government and local education authorities have been the fastest to respond to the crisis for young people, and have been helped in this by the support of the incredible logistic capabilities of UK IT distributors and resellers, a real national success story in the midst of the Covid crisis,” said Adam Simon, global managing director of Context.

The pandemic has raised some serious questions about the digital divide and the need for all children to have access to technology, but has also shown that distribution can help facilitate the way to close the gap.

“This pandemic has proved that every child needs their own connected device to learn effectively, and that technology is critical to keeping education going,” said Alex Tatham, managing director at Westcoast.

“With over a million devices delivered and more to come, the DfE have managed to procure products in a time of unprecedented demand and shortage of supply, and have delivered to every promise made. They could not have done so without the heroes in Westcoast’s warehouses and configuration centres,” he added.

Kevin James, group chief commercial officer at Computacenter, said that staff at the channel player were also proud of what they had been able to do to help keep children learning.

“By leveraging our established logistics and configuration capabilities, we were able to help execute this programme at unparalleled scale and pace, but it wouldn’t have been possible without our incredible people and our trusted partners too,” he said.

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