BT to help disadvantaged children with home schooling, offering six months free internet access

Partnership with DfE to open up millions of BT Wi-Fi hotspots to the most in-need children in England, providing access to online schooling and learning resources

BT is joining forces with the UK government’s Department for Education (DfE) to help the most in-need children in England with online learning.

BT will provide in-need families with six months free access to the UK’s largest Wi-fi network, which extends to 5.5 million Wi-fi hotspots around the country. Access will be provided via a BT WiFi voucher-code system and will allow children to access the web on up to three devices at a time, for six months.

The voucher will allow access with comprehensive content filtering and will point to online resources from BT’s own Skills for Tomorrow and Barefoot learning programmes, as well as BBC Bitesize and others.

The scheme will be offered to those who are most in need and will be launched on June 16th. The ambitious plan follows the Department for Education’s initiative announced in April, which aims to help England’s most in-need children access vital online learning resources. Over the coming months, supporting hardest hit families is more important than ever.

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, said: “Supporting children’s education in these difficult times is a major priority for BT. Through our Skills for Tomorrow programme, we already have a whole raft of fun and engaging online resources to help children learn at home. Offering up our Wi-fi hotspots estate will ensure that thousands more children will ultimately be able to keep up with their important digital learning and online schoolwork for the rest of term and over the Summer holidays as well as into the Autumn.”

Nick Gibb, School Standards Minister, said: “The Government will do everything possible to make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus. We have committed over £100 million to support pupils with remote education, including to provide laptops, tablets and 4G wireless routers to disadvantaged children and young people, and this initiative will build on that work. High quality internet access will continue to play an important role for children and families as we work towards pupils returning to schools in September, and I am hugely grateful to BT for their support in delivering this scheme.”

DfE has already provided over 50,000 4G wireless routers for children in secondary school with a social worker, care leavers and children in year 10 without access to the internet. There is further work with telecommunications companies to provide mobile data support to school children who are unable to access the internet.

BT is also announcing direct support for several key initiatives, offering access to the BT Wi-fi network as a pilot for the DfE scheme. These are:

  • Schools Home Support has partnered with Raspberry Pi via the Bloomfield Trust to quickly provide devices for learning at home to the families they support that don’t have them. These will now come with Wi-fi connectivity for 6 months.
  • Kids Out’s ‘Kids In’ initiative to support families who are self-isolating in women’s refuges after escaping domestic violence. 
  • Barnardo’s support for vulnerable children and young people who may be locked down in homes where they suffer from ‘digital poverty’ and so do not have any access to fixed internet at present.

Jaine Stannard, CEO at School-Home Support, said: “Digital poverty during lockdown has created a home learning disadvantage gap for many children and young people. With so much of school being delivered online, access to technology and the internet has become a major barrier to education. At SHS, we have been working hard to connect families with the essential technology they need to succeed - but securing internet access has been a challenge. So, we are thrilled to have the support of BT. This will make a tremendous difference to the families we support, enabling pupils to finally access the online education they have been missing.”

BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme is designed to empower 10 million people, by giving them the skills they need to flourish for the digital world. Skills for Tomorrow is a portfolio of programmes and initiatives. The portal has a wealth of support for families, parents and children, including educational interactive games and missions tailored for primary age kids.

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, BT has provided support for all its customers – from providing unlimited data for broadband customers and offering unlimited mobile data for any NHS staff on EE, through to supporting the homeless, and connecting the NHS Nightingale hospitals and providing hundreds of free digital skills and educational resources. The resources provide support in a wide range of areas – from home-schooling to business webinars and include help for people with low or no digital skills to ensure they can keep in touch with loved ones and access vital health services.

BT is funding the scheme to provide in-need families with six months’ access to BT’s Wi-fi estate, while distribution is being handled directly by the DfE which will issue families with the necessary voucher usernames and passwords.

Local Authorities and Academy Trusts will be invited to request vouchers, working with their schools to identify those children who are most in need. For more information about this project or the pilot, please contact: COVID.TECHNOLOGY@education.gov.uk.