The best internet providers and alternatives for homeschooling
By Cable.co.uk | Friday, January 15th 2021
With new lockdown rules leading to school closures for many children in the UK, there are inevitably going to be internet access issues that will affect homeschooling for many young people. If you’ve got little ones at home and the current situation is a concern, read on. And don’t despair, as the UK Government has teamed up with some Internet Providers to make sure you’ve got all you need for remote learning.
The digital divide
Ofcom has estimated that 7% of the UK rely on mobile devices as their only method of internet access. This means that there are hundreds of thousands of households without a fixed broadband connection in the home, many of which are supporting children and young people who now need to go back to homeschooling.
Streaming lessons or video class calls increase demands on your mobile data and the bandwidth available on your home broadband.
It’s easy to see why this is a serious issue for families in lockdown. But we’re here to help and there are some options that will make your remote learning experience better.
Government support for children & technology
The government is offering support with access to the internet for young people that don’t have a way to connect to the net from home. Basically, the Department for Education (DfE) is offering 4G wireless routers for children in secondary school with a social worker, care leavers and children in year 10 without access to the internet. If you want to benefit from this help, your kids need to meet the following three criteria:
- No fixed broadband at home
- Cannot afford additional data for their mobile devices
- Experiencing disruption to their face-to-face education
So, if you and your children are facing these issues go check the government page on getting 4G wireless routers which will give you more information about how to apply for help. There is also a process for ordering laptops for children and families who may need them to continue with education during lockdown.
Which broadband & phone providers offer educational support?
On top of government help, some ISPs are also helping families who need more data and better internet access so that their children can keep up with their studies. They include:
Vodafone have unveiled their ‘schools.connected’ scheme where data SIMs are given to schools so they can be distributed to families of children who need them. The Schools Connected scheme is only available to schools that apply. The heads of schools receive SIM cards with 30GB of data and automatic age restricted content filters. Parents and guardians will need to check if their child’s school is participating in the scheme. If your school is not part of this program, speak to them as they may not be aware of this opportunity. It won’t cost you anything and may save you a lot of stress.
BT have been working closely with the DfE to provide extra support for families through their home schooling scheme. The scheme utilises BT’s WiFi network which has over 5 million hotspots in the UK, and is based on a voucher code system. The voucher codes give up to 6 months of internet access with content filtering included on up to three different devices at a time. Check it out and apply.
Which providers offer reliable & affordable Internet?
There are a few key broadband and data plans that are available for people out of work or on Universal Credit. Often these are significantly cheaper than full packages while still providing a reliable internet connection. They’re worth checking out and will help your children continue with their schooling from home during lockdown.
BT Basic is a no-frills yet reliable service that offers a phone line and a 10Mbps broadband service to anyone on Universal Credit or other benefits for a maximum of £20.07 a month.
To qualify for BT Basic, you must receive one of the following: Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Pensions Credit (Guaranteed Credit), Employment and Support Allowance (Income related) or Universal Credit with zero earnings.
Virgin Media Essential
Virgin Media also offer an Essential Broadband package for people who are eligible. It’s an incredibly flexible £15 a month package with a 30 day rolling contract.
Virgin Media Essential Broadband gives you plenty for day to day internet use – with download and upload speeds that average 15Mbps and 2Mbps. You can apply for it if you receive Universal Credit and the price won’t change while you’re on the scheme. Unfortunately, it’s only available to existing Virgin Media customers claiming Universal Credit, which may be an issue for some.
Vodafone’s brand Voxi is offering a really incredible £10 a month SIM that gives unlimited data, calls and texts for 6 months if customer’s are out of work due to Covid, or are on Universal Credit. The Voxi for now plan can be applied for through the website. It’s worth checking out if you’re on JSA’s or Employment and Support Allowance, or Employment-based Universal Credit.
If you’re homeschooling you may be interested in reading our guide to Parental Controls and this article on how to keep your children safe when they are streaming.
What do you think about these packages and plans to improve Internet access for your little ones whilst they are homeschooling? Any of them have piqued your interest? Let us know what you think about them or if you have any questions.