PARENTS of vulnerable children might be able to claim one of thousands of free laptops and tablets for home schooling.
We explain how to check if you’re eligible and how to apply.
The majority of children across the UK are learning from home due to schools being shut until at least March 8.
Schools only remain open for vulnerable kids and the children of key workers, with all other lessons switching online.
To help with remote learning, the government is aiming to give out a staggering 1.3million laptops and tablets so kids can study from home.
It comes as part of its “get help with technology” scheme first announced by the Department of Education (DfE) in April 2020.
Top tips on how to stay connected
BELOW are some tips from Ofcom on how to stay connected during the coronavirus crisis.
- Use your landline or wifi calls:More people are making calls on their mobile network during the day, so you may find you get a more reliable connection using your landline or by turning on “wifi calling” in your settings.
- Move your router clear of other devices: Keep your router as far away as possible from other devices, such as cordless phones, baby monitors, TVs and monitors, as they can all affect your wifi if they’re too close to your router. Also, place your router on a table or shelf rather than on the floor, and keep it switched on.
- Lower the demands on your connection: The more devices attached to your wifi, the lower the speed you get. Devices like tablets and smartphones often work in the background, so try switching wifi reception off on these when you’re not using them.
- Try wired rather than wireless:For the best broadband speeds, use an Ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to your router rather than using wifi.
- Plug your router directly into your main phone socket:Where possible, try not to use a telephone extension lead, as these can cause interference which could lower your speed.
- Test the speed on your broadband line: You can run a speed test using Ofcom’s official mobile and broadband checker. If possible, carry out tests over a few days and at different times of day.
- Get advice from your broadband provider: If your connection isn’t working as well as it should, you can find advice on your broadband provider’s website. If you need to contact them for help, keep in mind that because of coronavirus some companies have fewer people to help with your queries.
The government initially said it would hand out 200,000 free devices through the scheme.
But this number has gradually increased due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic.
So far, the government has delivered 876,013 devices to struggling families.
But you need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for a free laptop or tablet.
Here is everything you need to know about the free laptop scheme, including how to apply:
Who is eligible for a free laptop?
According to Gov.uk guidelines, your child will need to fall into one of the following groups to be eligible for a free laptop or tablet.
- Disadvantaged children in school years three to 11 (ages seven to 15) who do not have access to a device and whose face-to-face education is disrupted
- Disadvantaged children in any year group who have been advised to shield because they, or someone they live with, are clinically extremely vulnerable
- Disadvantaged children in any year group attending a hospital school
If you’re unsure if you qualify, and your child can’t learn from home due to lack of device, speak to their school as soon as possible.
Examples of children who could qualify include:
- Children with no digital devices in their household
- Children whose only available device is a smartphone
- Children with a single device in their household that’s being shared with more than one other family member
Laptops and tablets will be available for older kids aged 16 to 19 in the 2021 spring term.
Sadly, there’s no information about when exactly this part of the scheme will open yet.
How do I apply for a free laptop?
Parents and carers can’t apply themselves – instead, you’ll need to contact your child’s school.
The DfE has already been in contact with some schools about how many devices they need, but other establishments are also being advised to contact the government directly.
In its latest update, published on January 12, 2021, the DfE said: “Schools that are yet to order devices can still do so.”
The devices will technically be “on loan” to families, which means they’ll likely need to be returned to your child’s school or your council.
Again, you should speak to your school to find out if they’ll expect the devices back.
What other help is available for home schooling?
Free 4G routers: Low-income families can also apply for free 4G routers if they don’t already have mobile or broadband internet.
Like the free laptops, you’ll need to speak to your child’s school to see if you can claim one.
You can find out more information on the Gov.uk website.
Free WiFi vouchers from BT: You can free free WiFi vouchers from BT if you’re in a struggling household – and you don’t have to be a customer to get one.
The free vouchers give access to five million BT WiFi hotspots across the UK until the end of the academic year in July 2021.
Your school will need to put in a request through the BT website if they agree that you qualify for the support.
Free 4G data boost: Telecoms providers including EE, O2 and Vodafone are increasing 4G data limits for free for some households.
For example, EE is giving out unlimited extra data, while O2 will boost your data package by 40GB per month.
Other providers offering similar support include Sky Mobile, Three and SMARTY.
The above help is available for existing customers of each network.
Free learning resources from Virgin Media: Students can get free access to learning resources at the Oak National Academy through Virgin Media.
Oak National Academy provides online lessons and resources for free across all key stages.
Virgin is also offering some of its TV channels for free – specifically those broadcasting factual shows.
Channels include Animal Planet, Crime+Investigation, Discovery Science, Eurospot and Sky History.
Free school meals: Children who usually get free school meals during term will get food parcels or food vouchers sent to their home.
Similar to previous lockdowns, it is up to the schools to decide which form of support is offered.
The weekly vouchers are worth £15, which is above the £11.50 currently paid to schools per pupil for the cost of providing free meals.
Schools can also claim up to £3.50 per eligible pupil a week, on top of their usual funding, to provide food parcels.
The government confirmed the return of school meal vouchers following backlash over “unacceptable” food parcels sent to parents.
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