A charity initiative that aims to give local children access to technology for education, set up by a former pupil of Didcot Girls’ school, has received a generous donation of laptops from Oxford-based engineering firm Airdri.

Courtney Hughes, award-winning founder of Secret Santa 365, was contacted by local families who were concerned that they did not have sufficient technology for their children to engage effectively in learning. Her answer was to initiate Laptops for Learners, an appeal for donations of laptops and tablets that could be refurbished and distributed to students to support their education.

Her appeal caught the attention of Bruce and Dawn Philipps, owners of the Airdri Group which has its HQ in Eynsham. They, together with the CEO of the company, Tony Wall, offered to purchase some brand-new laptops to donate to students in need at two local secondary schools.

Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus School have both been presented with 15 laptops, which will be used as part of the schools’ device loan scheme.

Rachael Warwick, Executive Headteacher of Ridgeway Education Trust, said “Staff and students at Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus School are tremendously appreciative of the generosity of Dawn and Bruce Philipps and Tony Wall at Airdri, and to Courtney Hughes for initiating the Laptops for Learners campaign at a time when access to technology is so important for all of our young people. It’s another example of the strength of our community and I’m extremely grateful for the support of Dawn, Bruce, Tony and Courtney and proud of the way our community works together to support our young people.”

The Headteacher of St Birinus School, William Manning, said “Throughout this pandemic, I have been bowled over by the empathy and generosity of our local community and the relentless support which has been offered to our schools. This incredible donation comes at a time when it is most needed, and students will be enormously grateful.

To Dawn, Bruce, Tony and all at Airdri and to Courtney for connecting us all, thank you.”

Georgina Littler, Headteacher of Didcot Girls’ School, added “We know that these laptops will be of tremendous benefit to our students and we are incredibly grateful for this donation. The connection with Laptops for Learners means a great deal to us, especially as Courtney previously attended Didcot Girls’ School. We are so proud of all she has gone on to achieve and know that many other members of our school community will be inspired by her actions.”