250,000 disadvantaged kids will receive free internet this winter - how schools can apply

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The National Foundation for Educational Research estimates that children in England are at least three months behind in their studies due to Covid-19 restrictions - with disadvantaged pupils among the worst affected.

In light of this, Vodafone has announced plans to supply free internet access to 250,000 children across the UK, in order to help them access school work from home, catch up on lost learning during the school holidays, and allow them to continue their education if they are required to isolate.

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The programme - called the ‘Vodafone schools.connected support’ - is available to primary and secondary school children in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and schools can apply for the programme now.

How does it work?

Schools around the UK can order data SIMs through the scheme to give to pupils who are finding it difficult to access their education from home due to connectivity issues.

Each SIM has a 30GB data allowance valid for 90 days. Vodafone states that, ideally, “the SIMs will be put into a connected laptop or tablet - or into a smartphone to tether to a laptop or tablet - making it easier to do school work.”

You can tether your mobile phone to a wifi hotspot by going into your phone’s settings, selecting wifi and internet, and then hotspot and tethering. From there, select wifi hotspot and turn it on. You’ll be able to set the hotspot name and password.

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Then, simply go to your laptop or tablet and find your hotspot name in the available WiFi options and enter the password you set. You’ll be able to use the data provided in the mobile SIM as the wifi on your laptop.

How to apply

The offer is only available to order by state schools within the UK, via an application from the school’s head teacher.

Head teachers should head to the Vodafone website here and carry out the application process online. You’ll begin by entering the school’s registered postcode to check that the school is eligible for the offer.

If your school is not included on the list, but you think it should be, the head teacher should get in touch with Vodafone’s partner, GK Telecom, via email at [email protected].

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Each school will be eligible for a maximum number of SIMs, with quotas based on the proportion of pupils on free school meals, which is the most consistent data across the four nations.

To apply for the offer, school head teachers must apply between 18 November 2020 and 31 January 2021. Only one order can be placed per school, and multiple orders will not be accepted.

It should take four to six working days for the SIMs to arrive at the school from the date of the order being placed.

‘Keeping the UK connected’

Nick Jeffrey, CEO, Vodafone UK, said, “Our focus throughout this crisis has been keeping the UK connected.

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“We know many hundreds of thousands of children in the UK can’t access education from home because they don’t have the right connectivity - this means children already at a disadvantage could fall further behind.

“We want to help and so have created this emergency support package for 250,000 children and young people. We encourage schools to apply to the Vodafone schools.connected programme as soon as possible.

“Together, we can ensure that no child is left behind.”