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@EducationGovUK answer your remote learning questions:

How can your child learn remotely if you don’t have a laptop?

Earlier this week we announced all primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and other Further Education (FE) providers in England are now required to deliver remote education for the majority of their pupils and students to help stop the spread of the virus. The only people who should be attending schools and colleges in person are vulnerable and critical worker children. Schools, colleges and their staff have been working extremely hard to make sure remote learning is in place for pupils, alongside all the work to ensure schools and colleges themselves can be as safe as possible.

We recognise this is an extremely challenging period, and will continue to support schools, colleges and their staff to deliver the best possible remote education.

We’re aware that this is a challenging and confusing time for teachers, carers and parents, and so we have information on how remote education will work for your child:

What can I expect remote education to look like?

Schools will be expected to continue remote education until February half-term at the earliest. We will continue to support schools and teachers as they use new technology and teaching methods to ensure children are able to stay motivated and engaged with their learning whilst outside the classroom.

Parents: you're not alone, keep in touch with your school and seek help if you need it"

Primary school head Andrew Truby explains why he thinks schools are better prepared to deliver remote education than they were in March pic.twitter.com/LcbD2RwsUT

— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) January 7, 2021

When being taught remotely, your child’s school is expected to set meaningful and ambitious work each day in several different subjects. Schools are expected to provide remote education that includes either recorded or live direct teaching and should be of equivalent length to the core teaching pupils would receive in school. As a minimum that is:

  • 3 hours a day for Key Stage 1 (years 1 and 2 when pupils are aged between 5 and 7)
  • 4 hours a day for KS2 (years 3-6 when children are aged between 7 and 11)
  • 5 hours a day for KS3 and KS4 (secondary school up to age 16)

Those hours include both direct teaching and time for pupils to complete tasks or assignments independently.

What can I expect remote education to look like in colleges and other FE providers?

When delivering remote education, we will continue to support FE providers to deliver as much of students’ planned hours as possible. Those hours include both direct teaching and time for students to complete tasks or assignments independently.

We know for some students this may not be possible, for example where a student is undertaking a course involving practical teaching and training which necessitates the use of specialist equipment and supervision or with respect to work experience and placements.

FE providers will be checking students are engaged in their study at least once a week and providing regular feedback on their progress.

To make sure students and parents have all the information they need about the remote education their FE provider is offering, FE providers will need to publish details about their remote education on their websites from 18 January.

Our family does not have access to a laptop and/or the internet, can my child still learn remotely?

Yes – we are continuing to work with teachers and staff to ensure schools and colleges are able to overcome barriers of digital access. Schools and colleges may also provide their own laptops, or consider different forms of remote education such as printed resources or textbooks, supplemented with other forms of communication to keep pupils and students on track or answer questions about work.

On Sunday 20 December, we announced that one million laptops will reach schools, colleges, other FE providers and local authorities to help ensure students have access to high quality remote education. Despite unprecedented global demand, over 560,000 devices have already been delivered in 2020, with an extra 100,000 this week alone. By the end of next week, we will have delivered three quarters of a million devices.

This has been backed by a £300 million investment in access to remote education and online social care. This comes alongside our commitment to helping young people catch up after a period of disruption to their education through the National Tutoring Programme, which 70,000 pupils have already enrolled in, and the universal Catch-Up Premium.

It may also be that some children and young people who have difficulty engaging in remote education, including those without a device, may be considered to be vulnerable, and therefore eligible to attend provision in person. As outlined in the guidance, this is a decision based on local discretion and the needs of the child and their family, as well as a wide range of other factors.

Schools will be expected to offer pupils a set number of hours of remote education to ensure young people receive high quality learning at home.

We’ve scaled up the delivery of laptops and tablets for those who need them the most so they can carry on their education. pic.twitter.com/nkMYCpKCC6

— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) January 7, 2021

Will my child’s school provide us with a laptop for my child’s remote learning needs?

Schools across the country are allocated a certain number of laptops based on need – the allocation is intended to enable the school to support disadvantaged children in years 3 to 11 who do not already have access to a device.

Schools can order laptops through our service on GOV.UK, and are then responsible for lending them to children to enable them to learn remotely. Parents and carers should talk to their child’s school about the remote learning they are offering.

Who will receive these devices?

Over 560,000 devices have already been sent to schools. Schools will then allocate them to children who do not have access to a device. During the spring term we are also extending support to disadvantaged 16-to-19 year olds, including those in further education.

My child is 17, can they receive remote education support?

We are extending laptop and tablet support to disadvantaged 16-to-19-year olds in further education this term. Schools with sixth forms, colleges and other FE institutions will be invited to order laptops and tablets to support disadvantaged students to access remote education. This builds on from the support providers have made available via the 16-19 bursary fund and institution-level investment to provide laptops and tablets for those who need them.

What about if I do not have broadband access in my home to access remote learning for my child?

We are working with some of the UK’s leading mobile network operators including EE, who are part of BT, Three, Vodafone and O2 to provide free data to disadvantaged families. Families will benefit from this additional data until July 2021.

Schools can request support via the Get Help with Technology service. To request support, they will need to supply the name of the account holder, mobile number and relevant provider.

Families should not request an increase in mobile data directly from the Department for Education or their mobile provider.

We are also continuing to provide 4G wireless routers with free data for the academic year where needed for pupils without connection at home.

What else is the department doing to help my child catch up on the education they may have missed during the pandemic?

In June 2020 the Prime Minister and Education Secretary announced a £1bn catch-up package to directly tackle the impact of lost teaching time on children in England. The package includes the catch-up premium, a one of grant (£650m) which will be shared across state primary and secondary schools over the 2020/21 academic year. It also includes a separate National Tutoring Programme (£350m) which will increase access to high-quality tuition for disadvantaged pupils.

Almost 70,000 disadvantaged pupils are now confirmed to have enrolled in the NTP, as the government continues to step up work to support young people.

If you require more information on what the latest national restrictions mean for education settings, please visit our latest ‘your questions answered’ piece.

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Poorest families priced out of home learning by Telecoms Giants - Oak National Academy (@OakNational) calls on Telecoms Firms to Step up 

As the country goes into the third national lockdown and schooling moves online, families across the country are being locked out of learning due to the punitive costs of mobile data. 

Oak National Academy, the country’s online classroom is today calling on the big four mobile telecommunications companies to waive data costs for education websites to allow universal access to education websites, so that all children can learn throughout lockdown. 

According to Ofcom, around a million children are accessing online learning from a parent’s mobile phone. Oak National Academy has delivered nearly 30 million lessons since the first lockdown, and yesterday alone had 120,000 pupils accessing lessons – even before lockdown was announced. This is five times as many on the first day of term in September. 

Whilst access to Oak’s lessons is free of charge, significant charges kick in if a pupil is accessing the site – and any other education site – through a mobile phone data package.

Poorer families often access online education through expensive pay as you go mobile tariffs, whilst better off families have comprehensive broadband deals. According to Ofcom’s 2020 Technology Tracker up to 913,000 children can only access the internet using mobile data, while up to 559,000 children have no access to the internet at all. 

Oak National Academy found that to download a lesson from its website uses 250MB of data. Based on a leading mobile phone provider’s standard UK charges for pay as you go data*:

  • Four lessons a day would use 1,000MB of data to download and cost £97 a day 
  • A two-week isolation period would use up 10,000MB of data and cost £970.
  • Data for a school year (39 weeks) would cost £18,915, the price of a private education for one year, according to the Independent Schools Council. 

In an attempt to tackle the issue, the Department for Education has offered data uplifts to schools, but in a pilot, only 205 people applied for this with the initiative proving too complicated and bureaucratic.  

Efforts to “zero-rate” educational sites have stalled because many educational sites use third-party content providers, such as hosting videos on youtube, vimeo, or embedding google documents. Mobile networks have therefore not been able - or willing - to zero-rate these sites too.  

Oak National Academy is working with their video hosting provider, Mux, to trial a sector leading innovative solution to hosting content that will solve this issue. But with a small team, Oak National Academy is therefore calling on the big four mobile providers to use their expertise and scale to solve this problem rapidly. 

Matt Hood 100x100Matt Hood, Principal of Oak National Academy, said:  

“The cost of internet access to the poorest families is the single biggest issue that is preventing all children being able to access learning during lockdown. What’s more, once again it’s the poorest families that are hit hardest, with the risk of being locked out of lockdown learning altogether. We simply cannot allow this digital divide to determine the education that children receive – we need a universal solution and we need it now.

“It’s time for the big four Telecoms firms to step up and do their bit. It’s very simple: make education sites zero-rated. This cannot happen soon enough and we would urge them to do the right thing and to do it quickly.”

BT & EE partner with the Department of Education to give 20GB of free extra mobile data per month to disadvantaged families 

Responding to last night’s announcement of a national lockdown, a BT spokesperson said:

"Connectivity is absolutely essential to helping children keep up with their learning throughout the pandemic, which is why BT & EE is partnered with the Department of Education to give 20GB of free extra mobile data per month to disadvantaged families

"Available until the end of this academic year (July 2021), the free extra mobile data on EE is accessed through children’s schools, and allows eligible families to access whichever educational resources are needed whilst face to face teaching is paused."

Other ways in which BT is helping its customers:

  • BT was the first telecoms operator to have an offer for families who needed help with home learning, offering BT WiFi vouchers for free access available since June. Previously distributed through the Department of Education, BT will be offering these directly to families shortly.
  • BT removed caps on all its broadband packages so every customer has unlimited data. This was applied from February 2020 to help customers working, learning or self-isolating at home.
  • These families are also eligible for BT Basic, a £10 per month fixed broadband service.
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Best things to do from home in lockdown – #ClassBento home delivery boxes with live classes 

As we move into the latest lockdown, ClassBento has launched a series of at-home artisan online classes and craft boxes here in the UK.        

Here are some of the top classes coming up in January: 

ClassBento connects anyone looking to try new experiences with top Australian and UK based artisans, creators and foodies. Experience a photography class in front of Sydney Opera House, learn how to punch needle cockatoos or paint and sip in a virtual art class, with this unique website for creativity.  

All designed to promote wellbeing, there are hundreds of classes to choose from, including the ClassBento LiveBox Classes which include a craft box with all the materials you need, delivered to your door in time for the live streaming class. As we are all spending more time indoors, ClassBento’s live online classes make it as easy as possible to try a new activity or have a fun virtual social activity together. 

Get everything you need to learn how to make vegan chocolate truffles with family-owned Manchester based chocolatier R&M Fine Chocolate or try your hand at a gin tasting from Bristol distillery, 6 O’clock Gin. All live stream classes with kits delivered to your door can be booked on ClassBento.co.uk. You can also bring some Aussie joy to your home with a range of Oz experiences, including a photography masterclass live from Sydney Opera House or learning to punch needle a Cockatoo. 

ClassBento is supporting UK artists and makers who have had to limit their usual physical classes due to social distancing restrictions. Now they can offer the same memorable experience via live streaming as if you were in the studio with them. ClassBento’s new free delivery service ensures that you’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits of their workshops without compromising your health and the health of others. 

Perfect to learn a new activity during isolation, celebrate an occasion or as a Christmas gift for a loved one there are hundreds of classes to choose from or, if you can’t decide, there is also the option of choosing an artisan experience gift card. 

ClassBento was founded in 2016 by Brit, John Tabari and Australian Iain Wang while they were working together in Australia. Engaging in arts and crafts have been proven to strengthen the brain’s resilience to depression and decrease stress levels. With the current pandemic, there’s never been a more important time to stay mentally active and socially connected.Tabari, from Newcastle, was inspired to start ClassBento after watching his grandmother struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s and ClassBento is committed to helping support those with dementia by donating to Dementia UK with every class booking. 

Talking about the UK launch, CEO and Co-Founder of ClassBento, John Tabari said:

“This pandemic means it’s more important than ever to stay socially and mentally active and support our local community of artists and makers. Our incredible live-stream teachers’ workshops have been instrumental in helping to keep friends and families connected during lockdown in Australia and the time felt right to now bring these to the UK too. We hope we can do our bit to help friends, workmates and families with kids keep connected and stay stimulated during lockdowns.”.

ClassBento, Australia’s favourite place for artisan experiences, has now launched in the UK. We connect thousands of students with local artisans and makers who teach fun workshops across the country. Choose from hundreds of creative workshops and wellbeing activities including art, craft, cocktail and cooking experiences taught by the UK and Australia’s best local makers. ClassBento is on a social mission to improve the wellbeing of Britons one workshop at a time.

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#DigitalPoverty - @TeachFirst calls on large businesses and government to close the digital divide 

Four out of five (84%)* schools with the poorest pupils do not have enough devices and internet access to ensure all self-isolating pupils can keep learning, a new survey from the education charity Teach First has revealed.

This compares to two thirds (66%) of schools with the most affluent pupils, showing that while all schools continue to face significant digital barriers - it is the poorest pupils’ education that will suffer the most if self-isolating.  

Evidence already shows the attainment gap between poorer pupils and their richer peers widened during the first lockdown.[1] The charity believes that, with over half of secondary schools having sent pupils home to self-isolate since September, the prospect of pupils falling behind further remains a serious concern.  

The lack of devices and internet for some pupils means schools are having to dip into alternative budgets. Of the teachers who knew where money was coming from to pay for the gap in digital access for pupils:  

  • More than a quarter (27%) of all state schools are using their reserve budgets – five times more likely than private schools (5%)
  • Two in five (41%) schools with the poorest pupils are using their pupil premium
  • The most affluent schools are three times as likely (29%) as the poorest (10%) to use donations, for example by businesses and Parent Teacher Associations

Using budget that hasn’t been specifically allocated for this urgent problem means almost half of state schools (47%) are going to have to reduce spending in other areas.  Of the schools which knew what they were going to cut:

  • Almost a quarter (23%) of the schools with the poorest pupils will have to reduce spending on school trips to pay for devices and internet – nearly twice as likely as the most affluent (12%)
  • A fifth of all state schools (21%) will have to reduce spending on textbooks and libraries, with a similar figure for school maintenance and upkeep (20%)
  • 15% of state schools will have to reduce spending on Continuing Professional Development for teachers

While the government has already delivered over 300,000 devices to schools[2], Teach First are asking the government to increase the number of devices they are providing to pupils and schools in need. However, given the scale of this national issue, Teach First is also calling on large businesses to step up and work with charities and schools by donating the much-needed technology. 

Teach First is working with large businesses in response to the pandemic such as IG Group, Amazon, BNP Paribas, Drax, Vodafone and DHL UK Foundation. This has included the distribution of over 1,800 devices and dongles to pupils and schools in disadvantaged communities. 

Russell Hobby 100x100Russell Hobby, Teach First CEO, said:

“This is a stark reminder of the significant challenges faced by schools serving disadvantaged communities. It’s not right that some children will fall further behind at school simply because their families can’t afford laptops and internet access.

“All schools are doing their best in a challenging environment, yet the choices they face to make ends meet are deeply worrying – particularly if they have to cut vital areas of education to keep up with this urgent problem.

“During this pandemic we all have a role to play and we’re calling on government and big businesses to help schools bridge this divide so that, despite the pandemic, we can unlock the potential in all children, not just some.”

Kathryn Hobbs, Headteacher of David Nieper Academy in Derbyshire, said:

“The scale of online device needs that this pandemic has brought is enormous. At our school we soon learnt pupils were using smartphones to complete homework rather than accessing the school’s online work platform on a suitable device. When it comes to schoolwork, a smartphone just isn’t sufficient – but the hard truth is that some families simply can’t afford the most appropriate IT equipment.

“Alongside the support from government, we are looking into our own budgets to ensure that our pupils have access to laptops and connectivity when learning in and out of school. For schools to continue to support all of their pupils throughout this pandemic, we need more access to IT devices, but looking into our budget there’s not enough money to meet the need. We would welcome additional help from businesses via Teach First so that nothing holds pupils back from their fundamental right to learn.”

100,000 college students still without suitable device for learning 

Latest data from colleges reveals that as many as 100,000 students may be missing out on learning because they do not have a suitable device to learn on or home access to the internet. College students have been excluded from government funded laptops for under-16s and today’s figures confirm that the lost learning gap will only widen if post-16 students do not have equal access to the equipment they need to catch up. 

It comes as over two thirds (67%) of colleges said that students’ lost learning is a concern. The country’s poorest and most disadvantaged young people are at risk of falling further behind as a mixture of blended learning (online lessons and face-to-face) becomes the norm for many courses. The lack of access to basic technology also increases the risks of young people being even more cut off from friends, family and teachers. 

The government’s 16 to 19 bursary fund helped between April and July to ease the pressures, but it did not support the numbers in need. AoC is calling for a renewed support package for all disadvantaged students so that they can succeed this year through the blended learning which is now increasingly normal. 

david hughes 100 x100Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, David Hughes said: 

“The legacy of lockdown must not be a generation of learners who have lost out because of digital poverty. Without immediate support for colleges to allow students to get the devices and access they need; we risk stunting the life chances of young people for years to come. 

"Further education is the vehicle to better life chances and opportunities and future life chances, blended learning looks like a solid feature of that future Digital poverty must not be a barrier. The government must do more to ensure that every young person can engage effectively with their learning online no matter their socioeconomic status.”

*All data included in the press release excludes Don’t Knows and Cannot Answers.

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With online learning becoming a large part of studying as a result of the shift caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to understand and learn from the experience of online students.

Dr Gulcan Garip, Academic Lead in Psychology at the University of Derby, and graduate Sanju Rusara Seneviratne, explore the experiences of online psychology students engaging in online learning in pursuit of a career change, with educators having a responsibility to create opportunities, enhance motivation, and improve skills for students to become self-regulated learners.

‘Online learning’ refers to any form of learning and teaching through a primarily electronic medium (e.g. via Blackboard, Moodle, etc.; Yanuschik et al., 2015; Mayer, 2018). While online learning has made education accessible to those previously restricted by factors such as geographic location or employment, research has identified concerns related to student engagement (Prior et al. 2016), retention rates (Mubarak et al., 2020; Jo et al., 2015), and reported perceptions of missing out on traditional classroom experiences (Ragusa, 2017; Martinez et al., 2020).

Current trends indicate that a greater proportion of students engage in online learning than in the past (Li et al., 2019), which prompted us to explore the lived experiences of students studying psychology.

Our study was designed, conducted, and analysed according to the principles of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA; Smith & Osborn, 2008), which “invite[s] participants to offer a rich, detailed, first-person account of their experiences” (Smith et al., 2009, p. 56).

The ‘balancing act of online learners’ was identified as the overarching theme in our qualitative study. Here are our top three tips for students and educators to encourage self-regulated learning:

Creating an online learner identity

A sense of identity allows you to establish yourself as an online learner when approaching prioritisation of tasks and managing time with work and family commitments.

For example, students can establish clear goals and identify intrinsic motivators for pursuing an online degree. This sense of identity allows you to set expectations and regulate time and resources effectively from the perspective of being an online student.

Students who develop a strong sense of identity as an online learner tend to perceive their experiences as positive and are more motivated to complete their course.

Educators could, therefore, make this a focus in tasks for incoming students as a sense of identity is especially important when juggling multiple commitments.

For example, tutors can act as motivators to encourage clear goals and support students in identifying their personal motivators and how they can approach their online learning experience.

It is often the case that online learners without a sense of identity to promote self-regulation can struggle with time management and staying motivated.

Clarity and familiarity with online resources

There may be an expectation to compare or expect similarities to on-campus study. While there are some similarities, it is important to become familiar with the nuances of online study, i.e. how to use library resources, how to access support, where to post your discussion responses. All of these help remove the uncertainty and allow technology to be used to support and organise study rather than it being a big unknown and unfamiliar context.

Students typically use on-campus study as a frame of reference when approaching their online learning experience. Based on this, we recommend that educators focus on clarity and adapting to student needs and preferences when presenting online resources.

The expectations of online learning should be differentiated from those of on-campus study that students may be familiar with to avoid setting unrealistic expectations that can be demotivating and alienate new online learners.

Developing platforms for interaction with peers and tutors

Despite differing preferences in our participants regarding online interaction with peers and tutors, students were more fulfilled and had a more positive experience when they established a relationship with peers and tutors.

This was especially true for collaborative learning, wherein students supported one another with resources and encouragement. Despite hailing from varied backgrounds, there was a similarity that they shared in their experiences and struggles that was valued and allowed for better self-regulation of learning.

If you feel hesitant about what to ask and how to approach tutors, sometimes taking the first step with peers will help you overcome that difficulty.

The experience of online study can be isolating. With this in mind, it is important to create a platform for students to interact with peers and tutors.

This can be via social media or through discussion groups on the learning management system. Social interactions are important for students both with peers and with tutors. Students often struggle with how to approach tutors, what constitutes a stupid question, for example.

This can be focused on in supporting students make that leap as a close mentorship is important. Enabling students to take charge and support one another also contributed to improved experience.

Managing expectations and building confidence

Research has established the importance of the e-learning environment in creating and maintaining positive learning attitudes, specifically an environment that considers student preferences and is adapted to specific learning situations (e.g. Wongwatkit et al., 2020; Zhu et al., 2020; Larmuseau et al., 2018).

Interestingly, in our study all participants but one spontaneously used ‘on-campus’ study as a reference point when sharing their experiences and perceptions related to online learning.

Providers and educators that use campus-based learning as a reference point when presenting resources and opportunities in online learning may be contributing to unrealistic expectations of online learning and the fear of missing out on-campus-based learning.

The freedom and flexibility of online learning were viewed as facilitators, whereas feelings of isolation and the lack of face-to-face interaction with peers and lecturers were generally seen as a disadvantage of studying online.


The study identified several facilitators and barriers to studying psychology online. It was also suggested that educators may be able to reinforce and highlight these experiences as contributing to developing a self-regulated learner identity.

Online educators can design teaching and learning materials that create opportunities and foster capability and motivation, as well as setting expectations and putting contingencies in place to counter factors that might hinder students’ self-regulated learning experiences.

Dr Gulcan Garip, Academic Lead in Psychology at the University of Derby, and graduate Sanju Rusara Seneviratne

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The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

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