Mobile operator Vodafone is offering free data SIMs so students can stay connected and keep up with their schoolwork this winter.
The coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have seriously disrupted education this year, especially for students who don’t have access to the internet at home.
Schools have remained in session during the most recent four-week lockdown in England, but many students have been sent home to self-isolate after peers in their year group have tested positive for the virus. Education will likely remain periodically disrupted until a vaccine is rolled out and the virus brought under control.
To combat this disruption and help students catch up on months of lost learning, Vodafone is offering 250,000 disadvantaged children free data SIMs. The SIMs come with a 30GB allowance, valid for 90 days.
Schools can request the SIMs, with the maximum number they can receive determined by the proportion of their pupils on free school meals. Schools can then distribute them to children who find it “difficult to access education from home” because they don’t have a fixed-line broadband connection.
For example, Nottingham Schools Trust has already requested nearly 2,000 SIMs for children at 34 schools in the region.
Vodafone developed the offer following a consultation with headteachers and education trusts, which emphasised the lack of home internet access as a major concern and obstacle to learning during the pandemic.
Students will still need a device such as a smartphone, tablet, mobile broadband router or dongle to load the SIM into to get online. Vodafone isn’t including the kit with the SIM offer. And recipients also need to receive adequate 4G or 5G signal at home to connect.
The SIMs will have age-restricted internet content filtering, to keep pupils away from inappropriate content.
Nick Jeffery, CEO of Vodafone UK, said: “Our focus throughout this crisis has been keeping the UK connected. 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 no child is left behind.”
This isn’t the first offer of free data Vodafone has made to help Britons stay connected during the pandemic. In March the network, the UK’s third most popular, offered half a million of its pay-monthly customers as well as NHS staff 30-days of free access to unlimited data.
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