BT approaches Welsh Government over free data to assist with homeschooling | Wales

Written by Mamie M. Arndt

BT has said it has approached the Welsh Government over an offer of free data for certain online educational resources to help with homeschooling.

Using a ‘zero rate’ system – where certain websites do not contribute to mobile phone data usage – the telecommunications firm is offering free mobile access to certain websites.

BBC Bitesize, the broadcaster’s online education platform, has already been zero rated on BT networks.

The move means customers on EE, BT Mobile and Plusnet Mobile will have free, unlimited access to the site.

There are now talks to zero rate educational content in Wales.

Marc Allera, chief executive of the BT Group’s consumer division, said the telecoms giant was asking the Welsh administration to nominate an online resource the company would look to zero-rate.

“We’re rapidly boosting our ‘Lockdown Learning’ support scheme by zero-rating access to BBC Bitesize and now Oak National Academy for all our mobile customers,” he said.

“Our inclusive support package means families that need it most can get help to keep learning, with unlimited data, free access to our five million WiFi hotspots and now free access to the two most popular educational resources.

“And to make sure that we are keeping children across the whole of the UK connected, we’re also asking ministers in Wales, Scotland and NI to work with us on offering unlimited data for eligible customers, as well as potential zero-rating of other regionalised educational resources.”

Schools in Wales will remain closed until after the February half-term at the earliest, provided there is not a substantial reduction in coronavirus cases.

However, they have remained open for the children of key workers and vulnerable learners.

Schools closed early in the lead-up to Christmas, when all secondary schools and colleges in Wales moved to online learning on December 14.

The Welsh Government said it was part of a ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus’.

Although primary and special schools were encouraged to remain open by Kirsty Williams, the Education Minister, due to perceived difficulties around home learning for children from those schools.

A recent poll conducted by YouGov for ITV Wales and Cardiff University found widespread support for schools remaining closed, with nearly three-quarters of Welsh voters thinking schools should stay shut until there’s clear evidence coronavirus transmission is under control.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have been approached by BT and are working with them to ensure our leading Hwb education resource is zero-rated for citizens in Wales on the BT network.”

The zero rating scheme is in place until schools begin to reopen and there is no need for registration.

Read more:

About the author

Mamie M. Arndt