Throughout the wall-to-wall COVID coverage of the last 12 months, there's one sector that appears to have been almost lost in the shuffle. A sector that our society would collapse without and a sector whose hardships have been thrown into stark relief by recent events. No, we're not talking about the NHS. We're talking about education.
When schools closed last year, teachers, parents and students alike were cast into the great unknown. The pandemic forced schools into online education crash courses, with teachers asked to create structured learning plans around the barest of bones. The real hurdle, however, was with access to technology.
There are around 2 million homes in the UK without internet access, with 7% of homes only able to access the internet through mobile data. For families in this situation, it was almost impossible to keep up with the demands of remote learning.
Even many of those that did have access to the internet, either directly or through government help, meanwhile, didn't have access to the technology that would allow them to use online learning resources. Research from Ofcom estimates that as many as 1.78 million children in the UK don't have access to a device for home-schooling specifically, and frankly, this isn't good enough.
It's not just at home where the problem lies either. UK schools have been notoriously underfunded in recent years and IT is a department that just doesn't get a big enough piece of the pie half the time.
Kids today need their own devices as we are becoming an increasingly connected world, and with social distancing unlikely to disappear completely for at least a few more years, without these devices, those kids risk becoming detached from and disenfranchised with their education and each other.
That's why we decided to do something about it.
The Novatech 1:1 scheme makes it easy for schools to ensure every student has the device they need.
The Novatech 1:1 scheme gives schools and parents the opportunity to provide students with capable and, more importantly, affordable devices. The scheme allows school IT departments to buy devices for their school, but it's ultimately funded by the parents, whilst we act almost like the glue, putting the pieces together and facilitating a best-case scenario for all three parties.
For the school, it's a completely cash-neutral solution to a major problem. For the students, it gives them access to a decently spec'd device that they can use at school and at home. And as for parents, it allows them to make small monthly payments with zero interest, rather than take out obscene loans or buy into costly financing options, which in the end, leaves them in debt.
So, how does it work?
We provide an online portal through which our devices can be paid for and even insured. This is a simple platform which is easy to navigate, allowing parents to place an order for their child's device and make a monthly contribution, interest free. We also work with another company to take care of the insurance on the devices, ensuring they can be replaced and that they're always going to be available.
We also work with a leasing company that allows the school to spread the cash flow of the devices out across the whole usage period. We take care of all the busy work and allow the parents and the school access to technology they would have little chance of affording otherwise.
It's a minimal investment for the parents (perhaps £10-£15 per month, interest free), and for kids today, having access to these kinds of devices on a personal level is no longer an option - it's a necessity. Given the educational landscape in 2021, with remote learning still happening across the country, the ability to have one device per child that they can take home and do their homework on, as well as use in the classroom, is a huge benefit. Not only to children using them but to their teachers and parents too.
In essence, 1:1 is more of a facility than a scheme: We're facilitating the transaction between ourselves and the parents, whilst the school and students are the immediate benefactors. The school can tell us what devices they need and we work with the parents to provide that for them.
Once they have those devices, the schools themselves decide what to do with them. Perhaps they'd want to give free devices to certain underprivileged families and ask for a slightly larger monthly contribution from wealthier families to make up the slack? It's ultimately the school's decision, but whoever pays, there are no individual credit checks on parents as the end-to-end credit assessment lies with the school.
The school also decides how much to charge for the devices. We can provide them with an amount that's cash-neutral but it's down to the individual school how much they collect and who they collect it from. They also have the final say on the devices, which is really important, as the whole school is going to be using those devices; it's much easier to manage when everyone is using the same device and the same operating system.
That way, students, parents and teachers will all get to know the systems together and there won't be any worry of mismatching, which can happen when parents are asked to choose hardware themselves.
It's an elegant system that hands all of the complicated data handling and logistical work over to us. We sort the devices, we set up the payment options with the parents and we send out the devices. All the school has to do really is make the initial connection.
The Novatech 1:1 scheme simply makes it as easy as possible for schools to ensure every student has the device they need.
Currently, we have a couple of local schools fully integrated into the scheme and are always fielding new enquiries from institutions across the country. The results we've seen so far have been truly exceptional and as word of mouth continues to build, we foresee many more schools joining up, in readiness for the other side of this summer.
It's a scheme that's tailor-made for the future of learning. A future where homework can be completely digitised, lessons can be more interactive and engaging, and teachers can use online resources within their lessons in a natural way. The old fashioned idea of handing out workbooks and battered old textbooks might be a thing of the past if more schools come to appreciate the opportunity that the scheme offers.
There are precious few alternative solutions that allow schools to kit out their entire student body with identically spec'd devices, and once you've experienced the many benefits, you'll struggle to return to the old ways of whiteboards and paper cuts.