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Local businesses team up to support online classroom learning
Aith Junior High School in Shetland will soon be able to deliver computer-based teaching to all pupils following a donation from Scottish Sea Farms and Lerwick-based gas supplier Rearo Supplies.
A shortage of laptops at the school has made online learning in the classroom a struggle, with up to half of pupils unable to participate in some lessons.
School computers are provided by the local authority but numbers depend on the school roll, which can mean smaller schools having to make do with fewer resources, despite many courses now being taught digitally.
Aith has around 230 pupils, with four year groups at secondary level, plus primary and nursery provision. Senior class sizes are just under 30, but with so few computers, digital learning was almost impossible.
‘In a class of say 26 or 28, perhaps half would have laptops while the rest would sit twiddling their thumbs,’ said school dad and parent council representative Jimmy Mercer.
‘There has been talk of government laptops, but they haven’t materialised yet. The educational authorities saying we’ll do this in four or five years is no good to the children going through school now.’
Mr Mercer had heard about Scottish Sea Farms’ Heart of the Community Trust through its sponsorship of Shetland Junior Football Association, and he applied for an award on behalf of the school.
The company agreed to donate £5,000 and Mr Mercer is contributing a further £2,000 from his own business, Rearo Supplies.
‘This money from Heart of the Community is an absolute game changer,’ he said. ‘We’ve been able to buy 16 laptops with a charging trolley, which charges up the computers between lessons.
‘This will double the number of computers per class and means when the teachers want to do a class online, every pupil will be able to access a laptop.
‘The younger bairns can use them too and, with the trolley, they can be taken from class to class wherever they are needed.’
The computers, purchased from Hewlett-Packard, have now been purchased and the software installed. The charging trolley is expected within the next two weeks, after which the new kit will be delivered to the school.
‘It’s a massive thing for our community and for the education of the bairns,’ said Mr Mercer.
Scottish Sea Farms has recently restructured its Shetland operations, investing £2 million earlier this year in farm upgrades and making several new senior appointments to enhance the local focus.
It has since been announced that the salmon farmer has signed a Share Purchase Agreement to acquire Grieg Seafood Hjaltland UK with operations on both Shetland and the Isle of Skye.
Scottish Sea Farms Northern Isles Regional Manager Richard Darbyshire said the company was delighted to support Aith Junior High School: ‘Ensuring every child has access to a laptop is a very worthwhile use of our Heart of the Community funding.
‘The Trust was set up 10 years ago this year for causes just like this one, which bring tangible benefits to the local communities where we farm.’