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Free data offered by mobile providers including EE and O2 to disadvantaged school kids in England - how to get it

Free data offered by mobile providers including EE and O2 to disadvantaged school kids in England - how to get it

Disadvantaged school children in England can get free data from mobile providers, including EE and O2 if they're struggling to access the internet to carry out lessons from home. Here's a rundown of what's available and how to apply - plus, some providers are offering additional help to all children on top.

Under the Department for Education's "Get Help With Tech" scheme, children in year's three to 11 (ages seven to 16) whose families don't have broadband access, and who can't afford to buy additional mobile data, may be able to get free data from their mobile provider via their school - see below for more on how to apply. 

This article is about free mobile data for kids, but if you're looking for a new mobile deal check out our Cheap Mobile Finder tool for full help cutting the the cost of pay monthly and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) plans. You can get also further assistance in our Mobile Phones guides. 

What help are mobile operators offering school children?

Below, we run through what major operators are offering to disadvantaged school children. Just be aware that it's not compulsory for mobile providers to sign up to the scheme, so children face a lottery depending on whether they or their parent or guardian's mobile provider is taking part. 

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, who first alerted to this issue, told us: "It can't be right that a child’s education is determined by which mobile network they are on. It's time for all providers to step up."

Help for school children offered by mobile providers

Provider Help offered under Gov. scheme (i)
Asda Mobile N/A
EE Free unlimited data
GiffGaff N/A
Lebara Mobile No response
O2 Free unlimited data
Plusnet N/A
Sky Mobile Free one-off 100GB extra data
Smarty Free unlimited data
Tesco Mobile Free 20GB/mth extra data
Three Free unlimited data
Virgin Free 20GB/mth extra data
Vodafone Free unlimited data 

(i) Department for Education scheme open to disadvantaged pupils in years 3 to 11 with a PAYG or pay monthly plan except with Tesco, Sky and Virgin where PAYG customers are excluded and with Vodafone where PAYG users must be on Big Value Bundle' worth £10 or more. 

Who can apply for the Get Help With Tech scheme?

It's not necessarily the child who needs to apply for the free data, as anyone they live with can do so on their behalf so long as their mobile provider is signed up to the scheme. You also need to meet the following criteria:

  • The child does not have fixed broadband at home
  • The child or their family can't afford additional data for their devices
  • The child is experiencing disruption to their face-to-face education

We've asked the Department for Education if you need to show proof or evidence that you meet the above criteria and we'll update this story when we know more. We're also checking if this scheme is unlimited or if it's on a first come first serve basis to a set number of applicants. 

Other help offered by the scheme includes 4G wireless routers provided by the Department for Education. 

How do I apply to for the scheme?

While this is a Department for Education scheme run alongside mobile providers, it's actually the schools that are administering it. We are, however, checking if all schools are signed-up or if there are any exclusions and we'll update this story as soon as we hear. In the meantime, here's here's how to apply:

1. Firstly, either the child or their parent or guardian needs to ask the school if it's taking part, and if it is whether they can apply.

2. Secondly, you'll then need to provide the following information to the school:

  • The name of the mobile account holder
  • The number of the mobile device
  • The mobile network of that device

Is there other help available for those in England who don't qualify for this scheme?

If you or your child don't qualify for the Get Help With Tech scheme it's worth asking your mobile provider directly if there's any other assistance you might be able to get. EE and Plusnet, for example, don't charge data if you're using the BBC Bitesize educational website, while there's no data charge for O2 users on several sites, including Hungry Little Minds and the free school meal voucher site. 

Giffgaff, meanwhile, runs a hardship fund offering free minutes, texts or data to those who need it, which can include students.

What about elsewhere across the UK?

In Northern Ireland, free wi-fi and mobile connectivity are provided to children and young people who may not have access to digital technology during lockdown. Schools run this scheme, so contact your child’s school for more information.

In Wales, the Welsh Government has committed up to £3 million to support "digitally excluded" children in maintained schools where there is no existing provision in place from their school or local authority. Parents and carers should contact their child’s school to establish what support is available, while schools should contact their local authority if they have not been contacted already.

We’ve asked the Scottish Government what support is available for pupils in Scotland and will update this story when we hear back.

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