Vodafone UK extends schools.connected programme across the UK

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Vodafone UK is extending its schools.connected programme, launched 18 November, following astonishing demand. The initial 250,000 data SIMs were ordered in just four working days by 6,970 primary and secondary schools across the UK.

The Vodafone schools.connected programme was created to help pupils who struggle to access education from home because they don’t have the right connectivity. It has now been extended to reach an additional 100,000 children and young people. It is also open to Further Education colleges to provide connectivity to disadvantaged 16-18-year-olds.

Heads and Principals at schools and colleges in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can order the data SIMs to give to pupils who find it difficult to access education from home because they don’t have the right connectivity. Each SIM has a 30GB data allowance valid for 90 days. The additional 100,000 data SIMs are available to pre-order now for delivery in January 2021.

The launch of the schools.connected emergency package followed consultation with head teachers and education trusts, who report that many children are struggling to access education from home due to a lack of connectivity.

The need to keep children connected to education has never been more important with the National Foundation for Educational Research estimating that children in England are at least three months behind in their studies due to COVID-19 restrictions, and with disadvantaged pupils being among the worst hit. In addition, Department for Educationattendance figures suggest that 9%-11% of pupils in state-funded education, or around 800,000, were not in school for COVID-19-related reasons in mid-November.

Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone UK, said: “We were stunned with the positive response to our schools.connected programme and the immediate demand for SIMs from schools in every corner of the UK. This only serves to highlight the scale of the issue and the vital need to provide connectivity to enable disadvantaged students to access school work from home, catch up on lost learning during school holidays, and continue with their education if they are required to isolate.

“We recognise we can’t solve this problem alone, but we are doing what we can and I’m delighted we’ve been able to extend this offer to reach an additional 100,000 children and young people.”

Lisa O’Loughlin, Chair of Greater Manchester Colleges Group and Principal of The Manchester College, said: “We are delighted this generous offer from Vodafone has now been extended to include further education colleges. Across Greater Manchester, the nine FE colleges work in every borough with many of our most digitally excluded young people who lack the necessary connectivity or equipment to study at home.

“The Greater Manchester Colleges Group is collectively working on a blended learning project to ensure all its learners benefit fully from online learning, and the support of this initiative will make a significant contribution to their education and future life chances.”

Vodafone recently launched a new plan to help people who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 and renewed its offer of free unlimited data for all NHS workers until 31 January 2021.