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Telecoms Giants sign up to Oak National Academy campaign to for universal free access to education sites

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Background no longer a barrier to lockdown learning @OakNational

Oak National Academy is today welcoming the moves by the mobile network operators (Vodafone, O2, Three, BT/EE), committing to opening up free access to education sites, including the online school Oak National Academy for the duration of the pandemic. This means that families will not be charged for data used on mobile phones to learn from home. 

Poorer families often access online education through more 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.

BT are the latest firm to signal their intent, following calls from Oak National Academy to support a campaign to zero-rate education sites so that children from poorer families are not locked out of lockdown learning.   

Oak National Academy, the country’s online classroom, has delivered well over 30 million lessons since the first lockdown, and just this week has seen 2.2 million pupils accessing around 5 million lessons. 

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The move comes on top of generous initiatives from mobile providers and the Department for Education on data uplifts, providing additional data to families that need it.  

Matt Hood, Principal of Oak National Academy, said:  

“The cost of internet access to the poorest families has meant that children risk being locked out of lockdown learning. The Department for Education’s data uplift programme was a welcome move, but today’s latest news from the mobile networks is a game-changer – zero rated educational sites mean that no child will be left behind because of the cost of data. 

“The telecoms firms are now really stepping up, and thanks to them, universal access could be a reality. There are technical issues to resolve, but we’re confident with everyone around the table that these are not insurmountable. Everyone wants to do the right thing for the country’s children, and I’m delighted that we’ve come together to make this happen.” 

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