Educational websites should be exempt from mobile data charges to help the poorest families, according to BCS. Key sites used by schools and parents, for example, Purple Mash and Classcharts, should not incur any mobile charges in lockdown, according to BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. James Woodward reports.

While broadband data caps have been removed following negotiation by the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and major providers, many families’ internet connections still come via capped mobile services.

There has been some movement with BT Mobile, EE, and Plusnet Mobile customers now able to access BBC Bitesize content from the end of January without using up their data allowance. It’s hoped other providers will follow suit.

Digital divide

Adam Leon Smith, Chair of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT’s Software Testing Group said: ‘Many low-income families rely on mobile data for internet access, and the average data allowance is much lower. With schools being closed for the foreseeable future, the DCMS should negotiate a ‘zero-rating’ for educational websites with mobile data providers.

‘This would be similar to the zero-rating already applied to some subscription-only services, like Skype and Twitter, by some mobile providers. Schools would need to confirm details of the sites they need, but these can be agreed and refined over time.’

Levelling up needed

‘We know the digital divide is a modern measure of inequality - so to support technical solutions it is vital that the quality of guided online learning is levelled up between state and private schools - with teachers given the training and support they need to deliver this well.

‘While the commercial sector has turned to digital technology wholeheartedly to enable remote working with considerable success, our schools have struggled through lack of digital skills and access to the right technology and support to do the same for all children in all parts of the UK.

‘That must and can change with the right coordinated strategic leadership from across government to deliver a truly digital transformation of how we teach children remotely. Making data free is a small part of that overall strategy and is unlikely to have long lasting effects without everything else that has to go with it.’

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