HARD-UP parents can get free data or broadband for their kids studying at home thanks to offers from Three, Vodafone, BT and EE.

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

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

To help children from low-income families, who may not have data or broadband for homeschooling, telecoms firms have teamed up with the Department for Education (DfE) to make sure they don't fall behind.

Three said it will give unlimited data for free to disadvantaged children, while BT's EE is offering 20GB of data a month at no extra cost.

Plus, Vodafone has previously offered SIM cards with 30GB of data for free to schools and colleges for disadvantaged students.

Who is eligible for the support?

THE support by the mobile network providers in collaboration with the Department for Education is available to disadvantaged kids.

To qualify, the following needs to apply to the children and their households:

  • Do not have fixed broadband at home
  • Cannot afford additional data for their devices
  • Are experiencing disruption to their face-to-face education

So how do parents claim the support? We explain all you need to know.

What are providers offering?

The DfE and leading mobile network providers are helping schools support disadvantaged children through the so-called "Get Help with Technology" programme.

The help is available to pupils in years 3 to 11 who rely on a mobile internet connection when their face-to-face education is disrupted due to Covid-19.

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 increase data allowances.

BT and EE

EE, which is owned by BT, is giving out 20GB of free extra data per month to disadvantaged families.

The support is available to eligible EE customers, who'll receive the data on top of their current monthly plan.

In good news for worried parents, it'll be available until the end of this academic year in July.

BT has also been offering free BT WiFi vouchers for internet access since June.

These have been distributed through the DfE, but BT will be offering these directly to families shortly, but it's yet to share more details on how to claim.

Early on in the pandemic, the telecoms giant also removed caps on all of its broadband packages so every customer has unlimited data.

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, today it also said it's signed up to the DfE's programme to increase data allowances for low-income families further.

How to make the most of your Wi-Fi

IF you’re not eligible for the support, comparison site uSwitch has shared five quick tips to make the most of your home Wi-Fi.

  • 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.

How to claim the support

Parents with no fixed broadband who can't afford extra data increases will be eligible for support if their children's school has shut due to Covid-19.

It's up to schools, trusts and councils to request the support for you though, which they can do on the DfE website.

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

For each request made by a school, it needs to give the DfE the name of the account holder, the number of the mobile device as well as which network you're on.

Once a network provider has processed the data increase, they'll let you know directly.

If increasing mobile data isn’t a suitable option for some children, schools can also request 4G wireless routers from the DfE.

Catherine Hiley, broadband expert at comparison site Uswitch.com, said: “As families across the UK brace themselves for a third national lockdown, and the constant challenge of juggling work and homeschooling, any extra support is welcome.

“It is particularly reassuring to see broadband and mobile networks doing their bit to help disadvantaged families, whose children are the most at risk of falling behind.

"Many of these support packages need to be accessed through your child’s school, so it is always worth having a conversation with their teachers if you feel you may qualify for the extra help."

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.

Meanwhile, Universal Credit or benefits claimants can get phone and broadband for £10 a month.

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