Finding out about internet access needs

Children and young people may not be able to access digital remote education at home because they do not have access to the internet, or their internet access is not sufficient (for example, it may have data usage limits).

You may already have some understanding of access requirements for your pupils or students, but the information below can help you to find out exactly what’s needed.

Internet access

‘Internet access’ means different things to different people. For example, they may not recognise that they pay for broadband as part of a TV/phone bundle. Clarify with parents and carers, or young people if they live independently, what they’re able to do online, for example are they able to do their homework without waiting for long periods for a website to load?

Specifying types of internet access at home may be difficult (for example, if a family regularly needs to pay for more mobile data, knowing whether they’re on a pay monthly or pay as you go agreement is less important). Ask respondents about the types of issues and worries they may face.

  • How do you normally access the internet? (for example, through fixed line broadband or a mobile connection).
  • Does a member of your household pay for your access to the internet?
  • Are you and your family ever unable to access the internet because you cannot make extra payments for data or meet monthly payments?
  • Have you or your family recently cancelled an agreement, with no replacement, which gave you internet access?

Surveys

Use surveys to check whether families know about existing options that may be available if they’re on a low income. Explore other benefits, such as affordable tariffs with eligibility criteria (examples of these are listed by Ofcom). Contact telecoms/mobile providers to ask what support they offer and find out about support from social housing providers.

You may also be able to target surveys about internet access by focusing on:

  • families of children and young people who’ve been lent devices to support remote education
  • families of children and young people who you’ve previously supported with internet access options available through the Get help with technology service or other sources
  • reviewing information from use of your learning platform, if available, to identify children and young people who’ve struggled to log on and stay connected with online learning

Internet access options

Schools and colleges can help children and young people to access the internet at home through the following:

  • mobile and broadband internet access
  • support from other organisations
  • help for schools and colleges with the costs of home internet access from DfE

If applicable, you can consult your existing IT support about internet access options that might be available for pupils.

Mobile and broadband internet access

If a family is struggling to afford the cost of internet access, there are affordable tariffs available from some telecom providers. These tariffs reduce the cost of staying online and may help families that might not be able to meet standard broadband contract terms. Further information is available from Ofcom about telecom providers that offer affordable broadband tariffs and the applicable eligibility criteria.

Ofcom provides consumer advice about choosing the best mobile and broadband provider. You can use one of the digital comparison tools accredited by Ofcom to find out what deals are available.

Ofcom also offers a checker for broadband and mobile coverage for services from major providers as well as general tips for checking broadband speeds and availability, improving wifi connectivity inside the home and options for switching broadband providers.

Support from other organisations

Information is available from Citizens Advice for families who are struggling to afford household bills, including telephone and broadband. Guidance is also available from the Money Helper website about saving money on home phone and broadband bills and on mobile phone bills

Families may also be able to find support to stay online through the following approaches.

  • Their local authority may have information about local digital access initiatives.
  • If they rent their home from a social housing provider, the housing provider may offer free or low-cost internet access, such as through deals covering homes in accommodation blocks.
  • The local organisations that are part of the Online Centres Network can help with digital skills support and may have information about local digital access initiatives.

Learn My Way offers lots of free online courses to help people learn to use computers and the internet safely. The learning modules cover digital basics and internet safety as well as wider topics such as using digital tools for managing money, improving health and finding work.

Please note that there are other schemes and initiatives available that aren’t listed on this website.