Free data: The mobile operators supporting students

A number of mobile network providers have now extended their offer of free data to those aged over 16

Tes Reporter

Online learning: A number of mobile providers have extended their offer of free data to help post-16 college students in the Covid pandemic

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has set out which companies have extended their offer of free data to students aged 16 to 19 and those aged 19 to 25 with an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

This follows mobile network operators offering free data for disadvantaged school pupils who do not have broadband at home and rely on mobile data to access online education during the coronavirus lockdown.


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Although from 8 March the majority of students will be expected to return to on-site education, the ESFA said in its update to the sector today that the offer may continue to be important for students who, for example, need to self-isolate or shield during this period.

Free mobile data for online learning

The mobile phone operators that have extended their data offer to post-16 learners include:

  • EE
  • Lycamobile
  • Sky Mobile
  • Tesco Mobile
  • Virgin Mobile
  • BT Mobile
  • Vodaphone
  • iD Mobile.

Further education providers that have registered with the Get Help with Technology Service will be able to request free data for eligible students who do not have fixed broadband at home, cannot afford additional data for their devices and are experiencing disruption to face-to-face education. Requests must be made by someone who has been nominated to order devices through the Get Help with Technology Service, and providers will need to submit a student’s mobile information through our online service.

Support initiatives for students and education staff have not always immediately applied to those in colleges. In November, Vodafone extended its schools.connected free SIM card programme to further education colleges. The scheme had been launched earlier that month with the aim of giving 250,000 pupils who find it difficult to access education from home SIMs with 30GB of data for free. At that time, college leaders criticised Vodafone for excluding FE students, many of them among the most deprived, from the scheme. 

And last October, supermarket chain Morrisons U-turned and announced that college teachers would benefit from a 10 per cent discount for teachers on their shopping, having previously said primary, secondary, private and special educational school teachers would be able to claim the discount, as well as all teaching assistants, catering staff, dinner ladies, caretakers, cleaners and school office staff.

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