Help for children home schooling with increased data allowances
With England entering a lockdown again on Monday evening it has joined Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and with the lockdowns likely to remain until the number of covid vaccinations is high enough to ensure that health care services will not be overwhelmed how education is handled is back on the agenda.
Back in March 2020 during the original lockdown the situation was a little different, with longer days, higher temperatues outside and spring around the corner. Also in terms of schooling a lot of students would have been shifting into solo revision time already but with the latest lockdown falling in the winter term which is traditionally a term to get a lot of material covered children and young adults missing out on lessons is more of a worry.
To help families cope with the shift to online classes, either through online video or online book like exercises as well as zoom meetings so classes can interact there are initiatives to increase the data allowance on mobile phones and in some cases supply hardware (e.g. laptop).
For those with school age children struggling with the extra costs of mobile data, it is imperative you talk to your school to seek help as the only people who can request the extra data packages are schools, trusts and local authorities. Hopefully a lot of schools will be in touch or have already contacted parents. The school then needs to interact with the Department of Eduction in England at least to get the extra data, i.e. there is not a big stack of SIM's locked in the head teachers office so don't expect immediate action.
As things stand today the mobile services run by
- Virgin Mobile
- Tesco Mobile
- Sky Mobile
are participating in schemes to offer more data. Three is actually offering unlimited data access and EE (owned by BT) is offering an extra 20GB per month.
In the original March 2020 lockdown BT offered six months of access to the BT FON network, i.e. so children could access the FON element of a neighbours Wi-Fi network, hopefully this is also available as an option since not all households can get access to a decent mobile signal.
In the short term if you have neighbours with slow fixed broadband and you have decent broadband consider switching on the guest Wi-Fi option in your broadband router and letting them know by text message that its available.
Fortunately the number of fixed broadband services without unlimited data is very small these days, hence why there is not a big list of broadband providers uncapping their services.
For those in homes where the broadband is slow and you have children taking part in online classes you may have stagger what is happening online, i.e. limit zoom classes to one child at a time and make sure no-one else is streaming video at the same time.
For those stuck waiting for bigger data allowances CBBC is offering three hours a day of primary school programming and BBC Two will have two hours of programming for secondary pupils.
Obviously the degree of help individual schools is going to be able to offer will vary a lot, but they are the best point of contact.
The financial pressures of another lockdown also mean that some may find themselves struggling to pay their broadband bill, we urge people who are struggling to get in touch with providers to discuss things and arrange a payment holiday or a reduction in the bill for a number of months.
For those who have seen their broadband bills increase significantly while out of contract, it is very likely that if you are happy locking in with the same provider again that in return for a new contract commitment you may be able to reduce your monthly bill.