Free internet to help poorer pupils study online
Free Internet access is offered for six months to help some disadvantaged young people study online.
The scheme will provide 10,000 households in England with vouchers for Internet access, funded by BT and distributed by the Department of Education.
Most primary and secondary school pupils are still out of school and learning online.
But there have been concerns about a “digital divide” with the loss of poorer pupils.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said everything possible would be done to “make sure that no children, regardless of their origins, are left behind because of the coronavirus.”
But there have been warnings that a much larger number of poorer families do not have IT equipment or adequate Internet access and that a social division in education is widening.
Labor MP Siobhan McDonagh, who runs a campaign for fairer online access, says there are 700,000 disadvantaged children without the technology needed to study online at home.
Wayne Norrie, CEO of the Greenwood Academies Trust, has warned that many families in his schools rely on mobile phone data for an Internet connection.
This is not “realistic” for online learning, he told the BBC when schools went online in the weeks following the blockade.
“Many don’t have broadband contracts,” said Norrie.
The scheme between BT and the Department of Education will provide vouchers for free access to five million Wi-Fi hotspots.
Local authorities and academies will be asked to bid for families in their schools without Internet access or who cannot afford data and the Department of Education will decide on assignments.
A scheme launched in April has promised to lend laptops to disadvantaged young people, with 100,000 so far disbursed out of the expected 200,000.
BT’s Marc Allera said the free wi-fi system would allow thousands of children to “keep up with their important digital learning and online schoolwork for the rest of the period and during the summer and fall holidays.”