Teachers set up mobile scheme to hand out supplies to home learning pupils
Teachers backed the Mirror’s “Help a Child to Learn Campaign” as they handed exercise books and pens to parents and pupils from the back of a minibus.
Our team watched as families braved the cold and rain to collect much-needed supplies.
Caring school staff set up the mobile scheme after realising youngsters were going short of essentials during the lockdown.
Patrick Ottley-O’Connor, head of Westhoughton High School said: “We found that the students were writing on any bits of paper they could find because they were running out of resources at home.
“So we set it up a bit like an ice cream van, stopping off at places at certain times so people know where it is, delivering paper, calculators, pens, that sort of stuff.
“It went really well on the first day and then we had requests for things like yellow paper.”
The van has also started carrying sanitary products for pupils, who would normally have been able to access them at school.
He added: “We have got some hardship (in the area) so we put snacks and fruit and those sorts of things on, so the bus has started to grow.”
Next week staff will also start collecting donated items for the local foodbank.
“We have had a real outpouring from parents to support what the school has been doing” he said.
“A group of parents are now asking what they can do to help. Some parents have said ‘can we give money’, so we are setting up something so we can target and donate to those families who are in need.”
Deputy head Claire Cronin said: “In order to make sure no student was left behind we spent a huge portion of out budget purchasing laptops back in September. We have been distributing to families who had IT issues, if it was just a phone or one laptop between a whole home, they have been our first priority.
“But then some of the parental feedback showed that parents were running out of stationary and that was the idea behind the bus from our business manager, Ann Butler.”
Three days a week the bus leaves the school and drives to pre-arranged distribution points.
The school has more than 1,200 pupils and has had up to 100 parents a week using the service.
We met the van in a leisure centre car park alongside the school in Westhoughton, near Bolton, Greater Manchester.
Barbara Fawcett, 39, arrived with her son, Jayden, 12, and daughter Brooke, seven, to pick up pens, lined and plain paper and pencils.
The accountant said her family are not struggling financially but plenty of others are.
And she thinks the government should be doing more for schools and pupils.
“At the moment the children are not being served justice. They are being served injustice” she said.
“I think the government should be targeting money to the schools. The schools are working very, very hard, as you can see at Westhoughton High School.
“If the government could give them a helping hand they would be able to get more stuff out to the pupils who need it.”
She added: “Let’s get the pupils through the pandemic. They are future.
“But all I can see for their future at the moment is in ten years their taxes are going to be through the roof, paying back the government what it has given out.
“They are probably not going to have good job prospects because they are probably going to have had less education.
“We are not giving them anything extra at the moment.”
Her children’s head teacher supported the Mirror’s “Help a Child to Learn” campaign, which is raising money to buy essential stationary and equipment for disadvantaged children.
He said: “We are getting the paper out and doing the right things, if your readers can do exactly the same and get resources out to people, that is pulling together at the time we need it right now.”
His deputy Claire added: “It is about coming together and everyone helping each other.”