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How struggling families can claim free BT WiFi vouchers so kids can learn at home

STRUGGLING families can get free BT WiFi vouchers so kids can learn at home during the coronavirus crisis.

The support comes as schools have been shut until at least the February half-term due to the third national lockdown in England.

⚠ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Getty Images - Getty
Struggling families can get free BT WiFi vouchers so kids can learn at home during the pandemic[/caption]

Schools will stay open only to vulnerable children and the offspring of key workers, with all other lessons switching online.

The free vouchers from BT give access to its five million WiFi hotspots across the UK until the end of the academic year in July 2021.

Buying on demand access vouchers to BT’s WiFi usually costs £39 a month, or if you sign up for three months, you only have to pay £30 a month.

The vouchers have previously been distributed through the Department for Education (DfE), but BT is now offering these directly to schools and families – we explain how to claim below.

What support are others providers offering?

THE major telecoms providers are offering support to help disadvantaged pupils during lockdown.

We’ve rounded up the support by some of the major providers below, but Sky Mobile, SMARTY, Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile have also signed up to a DfE programme to increase data allowances.

O2

O2 is providing 40GB of free data a month to support home schooling families struggling to connect during lockdown.

The extra data is available through the DfE’s Get Help with Tech programme, and available to O2 customers.

Throughout the pandemic, the provider has also zero rated more than 30 sites providing financial and mental health support as well as educational websites.

Three

Three UK will provide unlimited data upgrades to disadvantaged school children in England through their families.

The unlimited data, available to Three customers on Pay as You Go or any contract, will be applied until the end of the school year in July.

Throughout the pandemic, Three has also zero-rated calls and data to NHS services and websites, while NHS staff can get free data upgrades too.

Vodafone

Vodafone has previously offered 350,000 SIM cards with 30GB of data to schools and colleges for disadvantaged children.

Since the support launched in November, all SIMs have been ordered by more than 9,000 schools and colleges across the UK.

Going forward, the provider told The Sun it’ll evaluate when and where the connectivity is activated and used.

Similar to the above providers, it’s also signed up to the DfE’s programme to increase data allowances for low-income families further.

If you’re already a BT customer, the telecoms giant is now also offering unlimited data to hard-up families, up from 20GB previously.

It comes as other providers including Three, Vodafone and O2 have rolled out similar support measures too – check out our guide on how to claim.

BT has also zero rated popular educational sites designed to support home learning, including BBC Bitesize, while schools remain closed.

It means all contract and pay as you customers of BT Mobile, EE and Plusnet Mobile can automatically access the site even if they have run out of data.

How to claim the free BT WiFi vouchers

It’s up to schools and BT’s charity partners to request the vouchers for you though, which they can do on the BT website.

If you think you qualify for the vouchers and you haven’t heard anything, it could be worth speaking to your child’s teacher and ask for help.

BT told The Sun it’s made an unlimited number of free WiFi voucher codes available for pupils aged 16 and under who don’t currently have adequate access to internet connectivity at home.

The vouchers are allocated to schools in proportion to the number of kids at a school eligible for free school meals.

BT
BT’s hotspot network is said to reach around 20% of all UK addresses[/caption]

Once a school has had an application accepted, BT will send out the codes by email to be handed out.

Each child will get a unique username and password, allowing them to log in to the hotspot network.

The support is available to schools in England, Wales and Scotland, but not independent schools or any schools in Northern Ireland.

Just keep in mind that the network doesn’t reach every address, so it won’t be a suitable solution for all pupils.

BT expects the five million hotspots to reach roughly 20% of UK addresses.

To avoid disappointment, schools should check that coverage is available at each pupil’s home address before applying using BT’s online checker.

Simply enter the postcode for a heatmap to appear, with areas in red representing the best chance of connection.

Where there is no colour shown, it means no hotspot coverage.

How to make the most of your Wi-Fi

IF you're not eligible for the free vouchers and you have WiFi at home, comparison site uSwitch has shared five quick tips to make the most of it.

  • Reboot your router – the classic “unplug it, leave it 30 seconds and plug it back in”.
  • Location, location, location – if your router is located further away than it needs to be, try moving it to the room you’re most active in or the center of your home.
  • Disconnect unnecessary devices – turn the Wi-Fi off on gadgets you’re not using, even if they’re in a drawer. They may be using bandwidth in the background.
  • Run a speed test – this will determine whether your router is running at the speeds you signed up for.
  • Purchase a Wi-Fi extender or “booster” – this will optimise your broadband for faster and stronger connections.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is said to have rejected BT’s free voucher offer because it was too difficult to hand them out “effectively”.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable kids have been given free laptops to help them study from home during the coronavirus crisis.

School children from low-income families will also continue to get free meals during the third lockdown in England.





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