No Child Left Behind.. Founded in 2018, Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) and its partners committed to a year of action via its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) project, to address inequalities facing Cheltenham children and help young people to thrive. Part of its ethos is that every child has the right to good education; little did the NCLB team know then just how important their role would become as they entered their second year and the pandemic unfolded.
At the start of 2020, NCLB had a series of events planned focused on careers support for schoolchildren. With lockdown placing everything on hold, its team were redeployed to support Gloucestershire’s Community Help Hub, an initiative launched during the onset of the pandemic which connected residents in need to a support network comprising local councils, police and health services.
As an increasing number of families, as well as the elderly and vulnerable, struggled to get access to basic food and supplies, the hub offered support through its online advisory service, providing information on food assistance, from local foodbanks and cost-effective recipes to The Covid-19 Emergency Assistance Grant Fund.
Home-schooling during lockdown also exposed another major issue; a lack of access to home laptops, which only compounded the challenges facing families with school-age children.
Jen Tucker, Partnerships and Research Officer for Cheltenham Borough Council’s Strategy and Engagement Team explains: “Whilst many school children had suitable IT equipment during lockdown, countless others didn’t, and without the ability to attend online lessons, or complete homework, it put their education at huge risk, at a time when Cheltenham has set out its stall to be the cyber capital of the UK. We realised the urgent need to provide children with crucial access to laptops to learn at home.
“Even with schools re-opening, they are increasingly using online platforms for homework so ensuring all our children have access to the right IT equipment gives them the foundations to get the most out of their education. There were some 500 children in the area without a device.”
As a result, in conjunction with Cheltenham Education Partnership, representing local secondary schools, Cheltenham Learning Partnership, representing local primary schools and IT Schools Africa, NCLB launched Laptops For Learning in early 2021.
Since its launch, 129 devices including laptops and tablets have been donated and £32,000 has been raised to fund further equipment for home learning use, with new laptops offering a lifeline to pupils facing impending exams.
This has also since led to NCLB’s involvement in the Tech Talent Charter (TTC), a Government sponsored initiative which aims to deliver greater diversity in the UK’s tech workforce and something CBC pledged its commitment to in July 2020. This will see NCLB working with a wide variety of stakeholders to look at children’s digital inclusion and inspire young people to develop STEM skills. This coincides with a period of ambitious planning development for Cheltenham, through delivery of its £400 million, multi-purpose Golden Valley-style development underpinned by the UK’s first cyber-focused campus, Cyber Central.
The pandemic has also brought the issue of mental health to the fore, signalling the importance of emotional wellbeing and being kind to others. With many of NCLB’s partners wanting to support local families and individuals at such a difficult time has resulted in the creation of the Community Agreement. Consisting of more than 65 wide-ranging local organisations, individuals, businesses, schools and charities, from the police to John Lewis and Cheltenham Borough Homes to Cheltenham Town Football Club, the agreement has brought together senior figures in the community who are all committed to driving a culture that is inclusive, trustworthy and kind, an ethos that is now reflected in their policies.
“If we are to take away any positives from this period, it is that without the pandemic, we would not have seen the same level of engagement with organisations wanting to provide support, not just throughout COVID but even before it, and long-term, but didn’t know how to become involved. It has given them that opportunity; COVID has been the catalyst in establishing this platform and highlighting the need for support.
“It has been wonderful to see how many people have stepped forward to offer their support, which has helped strengthen our community. It is something we are carrying forward post pandemic, and this is why #HappyPlaceCheltenham is so important as the campaign feeds into the narrative of creating a brighter, happier, more caring future. These unprecedented times have shown us how compassionate people are and how much we all need to be helping each other.”
To find out more about No Child Left Behind please visit www.nclbcheltenham.org.uk
Read more on the Cheltenham Happy Place campaign here
For more information on the campaign and how to get involved please see Visit Cheltenham
If you’re a business or organisation in the town and would like to access the asset pack and share your news & stories please visit the Marketing Cheltenham website
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Cheltenham’s campaign forms part of a wider programme of activity to support the high street and local businesses through the pandemic and has been supported by the national Reopening High Streets Safely Fund through the UK Government and European Regional Development Funding.