Laptop for Schools Project

Committee Report – April 2021

The aim of the project was to provide computers and tablets for schoolchildren across Huntingdonshire who
were having to ‘home school’ during the pandemic, but did not have access to this IT equipment.
It was a community collaboration between ‘dreamdrops’ Children’s Charity, two local businesses,
(I-dash Ltd and Cambs-Pat UK Ltd), local community support groups across the market towns in
Huntingdonshire, and Riverport Women’s Institute in St Ives, and was designed to meet the immediate
needs of local schools who applied to the charity for help. The support groups and the W.I very kindly
contacted all the local primary and secondary schools in their areas, on our behalf, to raise awareness of the
project.

Please click on the headings below to view the full report:

Project Collections – (Final) to 31/03/2021 (week 11)
282 devices from our associate partners in Ramsey, Huntingdon, St. Ives & St. Neots.
150 devices were distributed to schools in Ramsey, Huntingdon, St. Ives & St. Neots areas.
132 devices were obsolete. This was due to device failure, software failure or a prohibitive cost to
upgrade. However, I-Dash were able to use parts from the obsolete units to repair some of the distributed
devices, which reduced the cost of the project significantly.
The donation of laptops to I-Dash from a local school did happen, but they were found to be in poor
condition, and a majority of these could not be refurbished.

Project Deliveries – (Final) to 16/04/2021 (week 13) (See appendix 1 page 7)
14 Schools had applied.
235 machines initially requested, revised end of February to 183 devices.
73 of those devices were advised as a priority.
14 schools have had their targets met either by ‘dreamdrops’ supplying devices, or government funding.
150 devices delivered by dreamdrops ‘Laptops for Schools Project’.

Project Expenditure – (Final) 16/04/2021 (week 13)
£7500.00 – Original budget allocated by ‘dreamdrops’ to the project
£1029.53 – ‘dreamdrops’ direct item costs.
£ 875.99 – i-dash direct costs, repairs & replacement items i.e. chargers/cables.
£1905.52 – Actual costs directly incurred by the charity for the whole project.
£5594.48 – Surplus Budget Balance (excluding donations)
£ 980.00 – Direct financial donations to the project.
£6574.48 BALANCE remaining (budget minus expenditure plus donations).
The reason that this project has proved to be so cost-effective is because every single person involved
has given their time free of charge.

Project – General Update

I-dash Ltd: As stated in the last report, donations of laptops and tablets far exceeded all our expectations, so the company generously placed an additional engineer on the project so that there were always at least 2 people working on it full time. Throughout this project, Chris Elt, (Business Development Manager), Dominick Murphy (Head of Technical Services), and engineers James Seymour, James Matthews and Stuart Martin (officially retired, but very kindly gave his time free of charge), stepped up and worked beyond the ‘call of duty’ to support its delivery, even though their own IT workflow increased as schools and offices started to open up. We are all extremely grateful to everyone concerned, and we cannot thank Mick Marks, Managing Director (I-dash) enough for his and his company’s total commitment and support, with both labour, guidance, advice, and ‘purchasing at cost’ for us. We would also like to thank Sarah Ray, Marketing Executive, for helping to promote the project to their clients. ‘Laptops for Schools’ would definitely not have succeeded without the wholehearted support of everyone at I-Dash.

Cambs-Pat UK Ltd: We stated in the last report, have electrically PAT tested each and every device. We cannot thank them enough for all that they have done to ensure the wonderful success of the project. For a period of time, their staff had to be furloughed during the project period, but the engineers returned to the office in their own time and continued to carry on testing the machines so that we could get them out to the schools that needed them so urgently. They were able to do this as they were volunteering their time for charity. When furlough eventually ended, the company found that they were stretched to capacity due to post-Covid demand, but once again, they rose to the occasion, and continued to support the project, so that we could get the devices rapidly out to the schools. On behalf of our charity, I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to all the engineers involved. I would also particularly like to thank Theresa Osbourne, Director of Cambs-Pat Ltd, for agreeing to partner us in the project. The support and commitment to the project from the whole company has been superb, and we are very grateful to them.

The project achieved a very high standard of refurbished devices for distribution to the schools, as all the machines were expertly repaired and electrically tested to a very high, professional standard. This meant there was no detriment to the good name of ‘dreamdrops’ or any of our partners or associated partners at any stage during the process. Each device was presented to the school either in a specially purchased strong cardboard laptop box (sponsored by the Rotary Club of Huntingdon), or a zipped tablet cover (funded by the Rotary Club of St Neots St Marys), to ensure that the charger and USB cable were safely handed over with each device, and this continued the professional image that we wished to portray, to ensure that the schools would have confidence in the quality of the items provided. The repair
costs invoiced by i-dash included USB chargers – either for replacement or repair.

Regarding the machine operating systems: it was established that if the device had Windows 7 installed, Microsoft would update the operating system to Windows 10, free of charge. We were able to do this for all the Window devices that we distributed. (We had initially budgeted for an expected cost £17.99 per device). From discussions with a local secondary school, their trustees expected the operating system to be Windows 10 as the minimum, due to security issues, so we felt we should apply this minimum standard with all secondary schools.

After my previous report, I had a meeting with I-dash regarding devices that had no Microsoft Windows licence installed or had a pre-Windows 7 operating system. The cost to purchase the necessary Microsoft Windows 10 licence would be £102 including VAT, per device. On further investigation, we also discovered that if the device had a newly purchased licence installed, but subsequently failed a short time afterwards, the new licence could not be transferred to another machine. As all these were older devices, there was a high risk of failure, which could incur high costs to the charity that could not be recouped. Rather than waste charitable funds on unreliable machines, we decided that if we had not fulfilled our commitment to support the schools that had requested our help, it would make more sense to invest this money into purchasing some additional devices. I am pleased to say we did not have to do this in the end, as all the schools received the support they required, either from ourselves or direct from government funding.


We provided a covering note to each student (placed in the laptop box or the tablet cover), giving brief details about each partner and associate partner that has been involved in this project, and has made it possible. A covering letter also went to the school contact (normally the Head), again with all the partners and associate partners’ information, plus giving guidance on what the school needed to do to support the student in setting up the machine. During the project period, we also updated the information to recognise financial donations from the Rotary Clubs of Huntingdon and St Neots St Marys.

Our project was featured on BBC 1 ‘Look East’ twice, Radio Cambridgeshire, and Black Cat Radio. It also appeared on the BBC Website ‘Make a difference’. To be allowed to feature on this site, all our charity policies and procedures, as well as those for the project, had to be forwarded with our application; acceptance was very stringent. I would particularly like to thank Alex Keep (NHS Comms Manager) for all his guidance, help and support throughout, in
this area.

Associate Partners - update

All the community groups supporting this project worked tremendously hard to ensure that the project would be a success, and we really could not have achieved such an excellent outcome without all their hard work and local knowledge. Not only did they contact all the local primary and secondary schools in their area and ascertain what was needed to provide support for students of all ages to enable them to learn on-line from home, but they then arranged the collection and temporary storage of the devices from donors, until ‘dreamdrops’ could collect, log and deliver them to I-dash for wiping and refurbishment. These groups were already heavily committed to supporting their local communities during the pandemic, and yet each one of them took on this additional work cheerfully and with great enthusiasm, and carried it out impeccably. We thank you for supporting and working alongside our charity to deliver such an important community project. Your involvement has made a significant difference to the lives of some of our Huntingdonshire children, when they needed it most.

I have been asked to give an estimate as to how many devices were collected in each area. (Please note that these are an estimate as, although we did try our best to keep each collection separate, the occasional bag may have slipped into another groups pile in the back of the car) Devices collected: Huntingdon (52), Ramsey (43), St. Ives (79) St. Neots (108). (There is a caveat to the St Neots collection figure, as this number includes some donations that were
handed direct to I-dash, St Neots).

The School Application Form that we provided for distribution to local schools by our associate partners, definitely made the requests for devices easier to administer and follow up, as they provided us with the school contacts, and enabled us then to work directly with the schools.

As we moved into March, it was apparent that the donation of devices was slowly decreasing, and the demand for devices from schools, too, had changed. Students were finally starting to return to school, and government grants for additional IT support were starting to feed through to the schools. Other community groups seeking used laptops had recently started up in Cambridgeshire and moved into the Huntingdonshire area during March, and that may also
have impacted on the number of donations to us from the public. However, our target for 250 devices to be collected had been reached, and we felt that in order to be fair to all our partners and associate partners, the time was  approaching to finalise the project, so March 31st was announced as the project end date.

I would personally like to thank the following groups again for the professional support you gave to me and the team during the project. It really has been a great pleasure to work with you all, and to get to know you, too:


Huntingdon area: Huntingdonshire Community Group
Ramsey area: Ramsey Neighbourhoods Trust
St Ives area: Riverport Women’s Institute
St Neots area: St. Neots Community Support

 

Donations Received:

Conclusion:

The Laptop for Schools Project has been an amazing community success, and feedback from the schools has been extremely positive. We cannot thank enough all our Partners and Associate Partners for the massive amount of time and support that they have given so freely to benefit local children across Huntingdonshire. Their enthusiasm and commitment to the whole enterprise from start to finish has been awe-inspiring, and it has been a real privilege to work with them all on such an extensive and desperately needed community project.

I would also like to thank everyone who provided us with such generous financial support. We really had not expected this, but it made a significant difference to the cost of the project, and enabled us to present the refurbished devices in a professional manner, as well as providing students with USBs on which to save their work.

This project would not have got off the ground without all the generous donations from local companies and members of the public who so kindly provided us with laptops and tablets to refurbish.

Thanks to them, the project reached its initial target of 250 machines, and enabled us to fulfil the requests from the local primary and secondary schools across Huntingdonshire who desperately needed machines to help their pupils to
access school lessons at home during the pandemic. I would like to thank the staff at Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust who kindly monitored, acknowledged, and forwarded donor collection requests from our website page, Mark Robbins, (Finance Director) for all his help and advice in setting up the project, Alex Keep who helped us with our communications and public relations, and my fellow committee member, Hayley Doyle, who was there to offer help and support with the project whenever she could.

Finally, this Report would be incomplete without acknowledging the significant role played by Natalie Sherman of Naturally Social, in the early stages of the project. On learning of our plans to provide laptops for local school children,
she contacted the ‘dreamdrops’ chairman and offered to share her experience of setting up a similar project in Hampshire at the start of the pandemic. She generously told us what had worked for them, about potential costs and critical pitfalls to avoid. This saved us hours of work and research, and helped us to devise an effective structure which could operate safely within the confines of government rules and regulations during the pandemic. We also quickly realised that there was no way that the ‘dreamdrops’ charity could carry out the project on its own. So many people have been involved in the ‘Laptops for Schools’ project, and by all working together, we have been able to make a real
difference to the lives of children in Huntingdonshire.

Every child that received a device from our project has had their life and their education enhanced by your support.

Wendy Baker
Operations Lead – Laptop for Schools