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Scrap Mobile Data Caps for Education Websites, BCS Says

Ross Kelly

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BCS

A professional body for the IT industry has called for educational websites to be exempt from mobile data charges.

BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, said the scrapping of mobile data charges could help children from Britain’s poorest families access educational material for free during the latest coronavirus lockdown.

The group warned that sites such as Purple Mash and Classcharts are a valuable resource for both schools and parents and, as such, should be more easily accessed.

Although broadband data caps have been removed following negotiations between the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and major providers, many families across Britain find their internet connections still come via capped mobile services.

Adam Leon Smith, Chair of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT’s Software Testing Group, called on the DCMS to act quickly to ensure that schoolchildren across the country can access educational content throughout the duration of the new lockdown measures.

“Many low-income families rely on mobile data for internet access, and the average data allowance is much lower,” he said.

“With schools being closed for the foreseeable future, the DCMS should negotiate a ‘zero-rating’ for educational websites with mobile data providers.”

Smith proposed that these new changes will be a similar to the zero-rating already applied to some subscription-only services, such as Skype or Twitter.

“Schools would need to confirm details of the sites they need, but these can be agreed and refined over time,” he suggested.

“We know the digital divide is a modern measure of inequality – so to support technical solutions it is vital that the quality of guided online learning is levelled up between state and private schools – with teachers given the training and support they need to deliver this well.”

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The call from BCS follows a similar suggestion from Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England.

Earlier this week, Longfield called for the UK Government to provide greater support to schoolchildren by ensuring they have the required digital technology to engage with subjects from home.

“The Government must ensure children have the laptops, broadband and data they need to learn remotely, and support schools to provide full online learning and learning at home,” the Children’s Commissioner said in a statement.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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