Digital help and advice for those home learning

digital learningHELP getting online and a useful guide to home learning resources is available for Dorset families.

During the current lockdown restrictions, Dorset schools are only open to critical workers and vulnerable children, including those with Education, Health and Care Plans, and schools are providing remote learning for other pupils.

Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council portfolio holder for Children, Education and Early Help, said: “Thank you to everyone who is doing their bit and home schooling to help Dorset get through the coronavirus pandemic – you are amazing!

“Please be kind to yourselves during these difficult times, especially if you are juggling work and childcare, it is normal for some days to be easier than others.

“I also want to thank our amazing Dorset schools who have been open throughout and remain open for our critical workers and vulnerable children, while also providing home schooling. Thank you to all school staff for your dedication and service.

“We have produced some online resources and guidance to help families get online and improve their digital experience, which I hope is helpful.”

Online home school resources

The council has compiled dozens of online resources to help families, including learning platforms and fun creative arts and crafts activities.

Educational programmes to help children learn at home are available from BBC Bitesize that are suitable for primary, secondary and post-16 education.

Does your family need a lap top or other device?

Parents and carers who do not have a device to access online learning should contact their school, college or education setting as help may be available.

More details about who can access this support is available here.

Data help for families home schooling

Customers using BT Mobile, EE, and Plusnet Mobile can use BBC Bitesize content, from the end of January, without eating into their data allowance. More mobile companies are expected to follow suit.

Mobile phone operators have also been launching unlimited data SIM card deals via schools for children in receipt of free school meals.

These applications are generally done via schools. If you think you could be entitled to help contact your school office and ask them about unlimited SIM-card deals.

Here is more information on how mobile operators are helping.

Broadband advice for families home schooling – quick fixes to speed things up

Slow broadband can make home-learning difficult so Digital Dorset have pulled together some potential quick fixes, explained below, to help.

In the first instance check if you can get an upgrade. Some areas in Dorset have received full fibre but the improvement in speed is not automatic – you have to sign up for an upgrade. To see if you can upgrade visit mapping.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/superfast/checker

You can also check that you are getting the best possible broadband service by taking several steps; including talking to your internet service provider to see if you can upgrade to a better package or if there is a fault on the line, examine if your router is in the best place in your house or if it even needs replacing.

If your broadband speeds are less than 10 mbps you could be entitled to help from BT/OFCOM’S Universal Service Obligation (USO). The USO either offers you a 4G Home Hub solution or subsidy towards full fibre if you live in a 4G blackspot. The 4G Home Hub is the quickest solution as fibre can take a while to be installed.

For more information on the USO go to Universal Service Obligation (USO) for Broadband.

You can still get a 4G Home Hub even if your speeds are greater than 10 mbps from a range of providers.

What is 4G home broadband?

This is a portable, and sometimes more affordable, alternative to regular broadband. 4G broadband, is just like the regular broadband found in most homes – you receive a steady internet connection, you can connect all your devices and you pay a monthly fee.

However, unlike regular internet which runs through cables and Wi-Fi signals, 4G broadband works in the same way as your phone, operating through a SIM card and mobile signals.

This means you don’t need a phone line; you don’t need to pay set-up fees and you can take it on the go. You should also be able to receive it relatively quickly.

If you live in a poor mobile connectivity area the 4G solution may not work. However, don’t just go by your current mobile phone deal as some mobile providers have a better network than others.

Here is a list of 4G home broadband providers.

Satellite broadband

If 4G is no good for your property, then satellite broadband could be another option.

It uses a satellite dish to provide two-way access to broadband services but speeds which used to be lower, have improved with download speeds of up to 30 Mbps available.

The main advantage of satellite broadband is that it can be provided virtually anywhere in the world, so long as you have a clear line of sight to the south generally.

There are satellite broadband providers in Dorset – search for ‘satellite broadband Dorset’ and you will find companies that operate locally.

Broadband too expensive?

If the cost of broadband is out of your reach, help could be available.

People receiving means tested benefits can apply for the BT Basic service, which provides a phone line and broadband for around £10 per month. More information is available here.

Virgin Media also offers a £15 month deal for those on Universal Credit.

Mobile phone operators have also been launching unlimited data SIM card deals via schools for children in receipt of free school meals.

The applications are generally done via the schools. If you think you could be entitled to help contact your school office and ask them about unlimited SIM-card deals.

Here is more information on how mobile operators are helping.

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