Porritt: Mobile networks must give free access to home-learning websites

Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, Luisa Porritt, has called on mobile networks to provide children in need with free access to home-learning websites.

In a letter to the CEOs of the UK’s four largest mobile network providers (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone), Porritt is requesting that zero-rating, which has already been provided for the government’s public health websites, be extended to educational websites like BBC Bitesize.

With the sudden recent closure of in-person schooling, this would allow children from families on low-incomes to access the information they need.

Around a million school children in the UK are believed to be reliant on mobile data for their remote learning, with as much as a fifth struggling to pay for these services.

Luisa Porritt, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, said:

“With a fresh lockdown and the virus out of control again, particularly in London, it's never been more important for government, business and society to work together to help get those most in need through this difficult time.

“We must protect our children’s education from the impact of this pandemic. That’s why I’ve asked mobile network providers to do their bit by providing free access to home-learning websites.

“It’s easy to do: network providers have already provided this free-of-charge service to help families on low incomes access vital information on the government’s public health advice. Now it’s time to ensure all children, regardless of their household income or level of internet access, can get the best education possible over the coming weeks.”

Hina Bokhari, experienced teacher and Liberal Democrat candidate for London Assembly, added:

“As an ex-teacher, I know the power of education to transform lives and how important it is to ensure that no child is left behind by the move to remote learning.

“With the financial pressures that many parents are under, zero-rating key educational resources would be a lifeline for our most vulnerable children and help teachers offer the most effective schooling during this tough lockdown period.”


Letter to Mobile Network CEOs here:

Dear [CEO]

First of all, I want to thank you and your colleagues for the support you have given to help our country during the pandemic so far. Zero-rating the government’s public health websites has been particularly vital for Londoners on low incomes with poor internet connections to access the information they need to stay safe.

But with the Government’s sudden closure of in-person schooling, our country faces another internet access crisis. Could you step up once again by zero-rating key educational sites too?

Schools have been told they must deliver online learning overnight, potentially leaving children living in the 10% of British households without wi-fi access unable to attend online classes.

We know one million of these school children rely on mobile data for their remote learning. However, 20% of households are already struggling to pay for data and 5% have already had to cut back on food and clothes. Families are thankful for your existing free-SIM schemes, but to reach all the children at risk of exclusion from school we need more urgent action.

That’s why I’m asking you to ensure all children can learn during this national lockdown by zero-rating key educational sites, such as BBC Bitesize, until in-person schooling can resume.

This would ensure children in need can access online resources immediately, rather than having to apply for discount schemes via the Government, or wait for SIM cards that may not be suitable for parents who need to use their own SIM cards for work.

Research shows that the shift to remote learning during the first lockdown significantly widened the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students. We cannot allow this gap to widen, creating a lost generation of children who have not received a proper education.

Zero-rating educational resources would be an invaluable way of supporting families in need through this crisis. I am urging you to act swiftly to help children who are in vital need of some stability and structure at this difficult and uncertain time.

Yours sincerely

Luisa Porritt

Liberal Democrat Candidate for Mayor of London

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