Middlesbrough is now believed to be the first town or city in the UK to pledge that every child will have access to an internet device to support their education.

Middlesbrough Council today confirmed the “learning lifeline” for young people after headteachers identified equipment gaps that left children at risk of being left behind.

The Council will spend £350,000 on laptops and tablets for more than a thousand children to create a digital legacy throughout lockdown and beyond.

Mayor Andy Preston approved the commitment that will see schools receive cash for over 1,200 devices and 250 internet dongles.

The Council has acted in response to concerns from schools that even more children are missing out on education during the coronavirus restrictions than feared.

Around Middlesbrough, it is believed that hundreds of children who don’t meet the criteria for a government-funded device are at a disadvantage.

Hundreds of families have suffered changes in their financial circumstances due to Covid.

Teachers have also noted the inconvenience caused by siblings having to share devices.

The Council will now pass funding directly to schools so they can respond urgently to need within their communities.

Mayor Preston said: “I will always push for the Council to use our resources to be a force for social good.

“This is another powerful example of us doing just that – and it can have a positive effect way beyond lockdown.

“We must fight inequality wherever it exists in Middlesbrough, whether that be through our goal of being a hunger-free town, or getting every child online to access their school work.

“This funding will give a learning lifeline to children who have been missing out.

“They may have missed out purely because their brother or sister needed the laptop at the same time they did.

“I’m determined that no child in our town will be disadvantaged simply because they can’t get online.

“Businesses and charities around town are doing great work on this and I’m confident this solution from the Council will have long-lasting benefits.”

The Council has surveyed all schools in Middlesbrough to understand the number and type of devices required.

Executive Member for Communities and Education, Cllr Mieka Smiles, said: “We have fantastic schools in Middlesbrough and parents stretching themselves to the limit to help their children learn during lockdown.

“We know from conversations with headteachers that more equipment can make a real difference and I’m proud we’re able to commit this funding.

“It’s an investment in Middlesbrough’s future – what could be better than that?”

Darren Gamble, headteacher of Acklam Whin Primary School, said: “This is a significant pledge by the Council and it will make a real difference. This funding addresses need that heads across the town are reporting. As teachers, all we want is the best for our students.

“The community is coming together to support children right across Middlesbrough. Maintaining their education and staying connected with friends and teachers is vital. Children are going to need support for some time as we recover from Covid and being able to get online and learn will be vital.”

The Council initially funded 50 laptops and internet dongles in December to help children asked to isolate when their class bubbles were sent home.

That scheme is now growing thanks to a £20,000 donation from Thirteen’s Community Fund.

Val Scollen, chair of Thirteen’s involved customers group, said: “I’m pleased that this funding will be used to provide much-needed support to children and families in Middlesbrough at this difficult time.

“We know how tough it can be for families to home-school, and it’s made even harder if they don’t have the right IT equipment. So it’s really important that we do what we can to support families and this project will make a valuable contribution to families in the area.”

A fundraising drive led by the Teesside Philanthropic Foundation has also seen more than £60,000 donated to purchase equipment and internet connectivity.

The £350,000 commitment from the Council is funded from its Covid allocation from central government.