Laptops and connectivity for children
This is to update you on a number of current programmes which are in place across the two boroughs to help children and young people to continue with online education while schools are generally closed. If children you work with do not have access to suitable kit to work at home and communicate with their schools, the first port of call for practitioners should be the child’s school to see if he or she has accessed or could access any of the schemes that are currently running:
Many children and families benefited from the DfE scheme in the summer through which 909 laptops were provided to children with early help practitioners or social workers across Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster. Some young people also got laptops through their schools if they were in Year 10 at the time. This would be the case even for children who live in our two boroughs but go to school in other boroughs. Since the summer, the DfE’s scheme has widened but is now focusing entirely on schools. It was not previously possible for schools to order laptops until face to face education was interrupted, but since schools were closed to most children from 5th January all schools can now order. More information can be found here.
Digital Futures (Westminster schools only)
Council and other funding has been provided for this scheme which is being coordinated by Young Westminster Foundation. Like the DfE scheme, this is delivering laptops to any schools which apply. 750 laptops have been made available under phase 1 of the project and they are being allocated depending on the number of children eligible for free school meals in each school. The laptops have been delivered to schools from December and should have been fully allocated by the end of this month. Digital Futures has also distributed refurbished devices to local schools, donated by businesses and another Council department. Consideration can be given to sourcing devices for cohorts of children or young people who appear to be missing out so, please let me know if you feel that there any unmet needs. More information about Digital Futures can be found here.
Some of the devices supplied by DfE in the summer came with “dongles” so that children could access the internet if their homes had no access to broadband. This term the DfE have launched a new programme whereby families can increase the data allowance on their mobile phones. This is possible through a growing number of network providers and in some cases it will enable access to unlimited data. Schools need to apply for this on families’ behalf and it’s available to any maintained schools or Academies with children in years 3-11. If this is not suitable for a particular family, then schools can also request 4G wireless routers for disadvantaged children. Again, practitioners should approach schools about these initiatives. More information can be found here.
Another scheme that schools may be able to help families have access to is through BT. Schools can apply for a limited number of free Wi-Fi voucher codes to give to their most in-need pupils. BT can allocate these codes although the numbers available are limited and linked to the number of pupils in each school who are eligible for free school meals. Families also need to live at an address which has access to a BT internet hotspot. More information is here.
It is possible for families who have gaming systems such as Xboxes or PlayStations to use these to access online learning provided through schools. This article in the Times Educational Supplement describes how a secondary school student created simple “how to” guides for both systems.
It should also be noted that BBC TV has started broadcasting lessons on BBC Two and CBBC, as well as online from 11th January following the latest closure of schools. This will include three hours of primary school programming every weekday on CBBC, and at least two hours for secondary pupils on BBC Two. Families with televisions but no internet access will be able to use these resources. More information is here.
Efforts to tackle digital exclusion and ensure fewer children are excluded from attempts to keep them linked in with their teachers while schools are closed are developing all the time and there is wider work taking place to address this across departments in both boroughs. I hope this helps to keep those of you who are in direct contact with families who may be missing out up to speed with initiatives which may be worth pursuing.
Last Updated 15/01/2021