Aiming to expand its scheme to support access to education while schools are closed to most pupils during the latest UK lockdown, BT and the BBC have announced plans to remove mobile data charges by the end of January for BBC Bitesize, the remote learning programming slot for British students.
With the key objective of minimising disruption to children’s education and providing rhythm and routines during the first UK lockdown in March 2020, BBC Bitesize expanded its programme offering in April 2020 to ensure every child in the UK had the opportunity to continue to follow the appropriate core parts of their school curriculum.
Now, with the third lockdown meaning a return to remote learning, the BBC is bringing together BBC Two, CBBC, BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and online services to deliver a new education offer to children, teachers and parents that is designed to ensure all children can access curriculum-based learning even if they don’t have access to the internet.
The latter has been revealed over the past week as a key issue in the UK where high-speed broadband availability and high-quality mobile coverage are nowhere near guaranteed across the country.
In addition to the UK government being severely criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for a litany of failure in rolling out broadband across the UK, recent research revealed that UK households could be overspending on their broadband services, with significant numbers not switching broadband networks for fear of losing their connection or the perceived hassle of switching.
In a first-of-its-kind agreement to support such accessibility, the BT and BBC deal will see customers of EE, BT Mobile and PlusNet Mobile accessing BBC Bitesize for educational purposes will be able to watch, read and interact with as much immersive content as they need, even if they have run out of data. To make the process as easy as possible for families, no registration will be required, with zero-rated access to educational Bitesize content through the BBC website and Bitesize app made automatically.
“With the pandemic forcing schools to close again we should not allow a lack of digital access to further impact children’s education. This is why I’m delighted we have agreed this partnership with BT to remove data charges when accessing the BBC’s brilliant Bitesize content,” commented BBC director-general Tim Davie. “The BBC will continue to do all we can to ensure every child, whatever their circumstances, can continue to access vital educational materials during this time.”
The zero-rating of the popular BBC educational websites forms part of BT’s Lockdown Learning support scheme. Run as an extension of BT’s partnership with the Department for Education (DfE) until the end of the academic year in July 2021, the scheme is designed to make a difference for those trying to connect to educational sites with limited mobile data.
Core elements of the scheme include unlimited mobile data for EE and BT Mobile customers without a fixed connection in partnership with DfE; free Wi-Fi vouchers for schools and charities to distribute to those who need it most, so that disadvantaged kids and those without a network connection can access home learning resources; and zero-rating of two of the most popular educational websites.
Commenting on the BBC Bitesize offer, Marc Allera, CEO of BT Group’s consumer division, remarked: “We want to ensure that no child is left behind in their education as a result of this pandemic, and recognise that we all have a role we can play to help families and carers continue their children’s education while schools are closed. That’s why…we’re proud to partner with the BBC and be the first network to zero-rate BBC Bitesize and allow all of our mobile customers to access its incredible content without using up any data.”