THE Rhondda Member of the Senedd has welcome a scheme in Wales to provide internet access to the homes of Welsh school children currently without this vital service.
Leanne Wood has put pressure on the Labour Government to deliver internet and device access for Welsh children after learning of the scheme in England which has already begun providing unlimited data to households with children and without internet access until the end of the academic year.
Throughout the various lockdowns and school closures, internet has become even more important due to online learning. Leanne has been approached by parents and child minders who have struggled to home school due to a lack of devices or internet access. A teacher based in the Rhondda also told Leanne one of her pupils was unable to do any more home schooling as she had spent all her Christmas money on extra data for online lessons.
After raising the issue in the Senedd and writing to the Education Minister, the Welsh Government has finally moving towards providing free data for children without internet access.
In a letter to Leanne, the Education Minister wrote:
‘Since the Department for Education (DfE) launched their data uplift pilot scheme, my officials have been in negotiations with UK’s four main Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), alongside a number of Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) to extend the scheme to learners in Wales.
‘The scheme will increase the mobile data allowance for either the parent / carer of the learner, or the learners account if deemed appropriate, where the individual has an existing account with the MNOs / MVNOs (and which meets their pre-conditions). In line with the DfE agreement, uplifts are currently scheduled to run until 31 July 2021.
‘The Welsh Government is actively engaged with 9 MNOs / MVNOs (BT / EE, O2, Three, SMARTY, Vodafone, Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile), and are in the final stages of agreeing legal terms and conditions. Local authorities have already been briefed on the data collection process that facilitates this scheme.’
The Education Minister said there would also be additional money for an extra 50,000 devices for children which are expected to be delivered in ‘April/May’.
In response, Leanne said: “I am glad the pressure we have applied has paid off. It is wrong that nearly a year after we first went into lockdown, there are still children without access to internet or suitable devices in their own home. This is something that should have been sorted out a long time ago.
“It is better late than never and I hope that the internet access scheme and the additional devices for children in Wales will allow those pupils who have fallen behind through no fault of their own, to catch up with their home schooling.
“There is a well-established link between poverty and attainment and our government should be doing more about it. I will keep a close eye on how matters develop in the Rhondda to ensure that this help goes to everyone that needs it.”