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Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston has backed a joint initiative between local firm PD Ports and charity Teesside Philanthropic Foundation to tackle digital poverty during the latest national lockdown.

With thousands of the town’s pupils again working from home following the government’s closure of schools, the mayor is working with PD Ports and the charity he founded to provide tech and connectivity to the most disadvantaged Middlesbrough pupils.

PD Ports, guardians of the River Tees, have made an initial £5,000 donation to Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation – with a call for more of the town’s school to come forward to help their less privileged children.

And the trio of mayor, port guardian and charity are calling on more local firms to join forces and help the fight against digital poverty.

Utilising £3,000 of the PD Ports donation, the Foundation will work with Unity City Academy to provide Chrome Books to 20 Year 9 pupils studying for GSCEs, with a further £2,000 supporting pupils within Tees Valley Education’s Brambles, Pennyman and Discovery Special academies.

Mayor Preston said: “It’s a fact that the closing of schools will only increase the divide between the haves and have-nots, as many children from disadvantaged families struggle for access to tech and have limited connectivity.

“I’m determined to do all I can to support to fight kids from poorer backgrounds being further disadvantaged by Covid. PD Ports are showing real leadership on this vital issue and I hope more will come forward with offers of support.”

PD Ports CEO Frans Calje said: “As we enter the second period of home learning in less than a year, it has never been more important for businesses to do whatever they can to offer young people the support and opportunities they need to achieve their ambitions.

“At PD Ports, we see young people as the future of our businesses and we have a long and proud history of investing in the skills and personal development of the next generation.

“The COVID19 crisis has already caused so much uncertainty; no young person should have the added stresses of missing out on their education due to restrictions on classroom learning.

“We want to do what we can to support our region’s young people and we hope that by donating £5,000 to this fund, we can enable schoolchildren to have equal opportunities to continue their education and pursue their ambitions.

“We would encourage other businesses from across the Tees Valley to join us in pledging support for the provision of tech during the COVID pandemic.”

Lee Bramley, chair of trustee for the Philanthropic Foundation, added: “This is a fantastic scheme that our charity is proud to support, working with local schools and the mayor, and we hope the donation by PD Ports is just the start, with more generous local firms helping out too.”

Kevin Broom, vice principal at Unity City Academy, said: “The lack of IT and internet connectivity can be an unfair but very real disadvantage in the home learning for less fortunate students.

“Most of us take IT appliances and the access to the internet for granted but, sadly, it is a huge issue in schools across Middlesbrough and beyond and it’s fantastic that PD Ports, the Philanthropic Foundation and the mayor have launched this scheme.”

Local businesses who would like to support the Tech for Kids Fund are urged to contact the Philanthropic Foundation via diane.w@teessidecharity.org.uk

Posted in: CSR