Gavin Williamson ‘turned down an offer from BT to provide children from disadvantaged backgrounds with cheaper broadband as pupils across the country switched to remote learning’
- Gavin Williamson ‘refused offer to supply free or cheap broadband to children’
- CEO of BT’s consumer brands, Marc Allera, said they offered Wi-Fi vouchers
- The Department of Education ‘declined’ the offer from broadband giant last year
Gavin Williamson snubbed an offer to supply free or cheap broadband to children from disadvantaged backgrounds as schools shut their doors amid the coronavirus pandemic, it has been reported.
The Education Secretary ‘turned down’ an offer from telecommunications operator BT to provide vulnerable families with Wi-Fi vouchers in June last year as thousands of pupils across the country switched to remote learning.
It comes after Mr Williamson told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the schools watchdog Ofsted would enforce legal requirements for state schools in England to provide high-quality remote education during the lockdown.
In a letter to Labour MP Sarah Owen, the CEO of BT’s consumer brands, Marc Allera, said that in Spring last year the Department of Education ‘declined’ the offer of Wi-Fi vouchers, The Mirror has revealed.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson turned down an offer from broadband giant BT to provide vulnerable families with Wi-Fi vouchers
Mr Allerca said the broadband giant had suggested the Department of Education identify families requiring help to get online but this offer was declined.
The letter, which has been seen by The Mirror, read: ‘BT was the first telecoms operator to have an offer for vulnerable families, with BT Wi-Fi vouchers giving for free broadband access made available from June 2020.
‘Unfortunately, the Department for Education struggled to distribute these vouchers effectively and handed them back to us.’
He added: ‘We offered to prioritise getting these families connected, and suggested the Department identify families needing help to get online and to fund them to join the service for six or 12 months…The Department declined this route, wanting something faster.’
Following the revelation, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister and MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting tweeted: ‘Gavin Williamson snubbed offer of cheap broadband for kids from BT. Why?!?!
‘With thousands upon thousands of pupils still without the IT and internet connections they need to access learning, they need all the help they can get. We need #EveryChildOnline.’
In a letter to Labour MP Sarah Owen, the CEO of BT’s consumer brands said the Department of Education ‘declined’ the offer of Wi-Fi vouchers
It comes after Mr Williamson said that Ofsted would enforce legal requirements for state schools in England to provide high-quality remote education during the lockdown. (Stock image)
Labour MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting asked why the Education Secretary had ‘snubbed’ the offer
Yesterday Mr Williamson told the House of Commons that schools would be expected to provide between three and five hours of teaching a day – and if parents feel their child was not receiving enough learning they should complain to the school first and then ultimately to Ofsted.
The Department for Education said it expected schools to have a digital platform, such as G-Suite or Microsoft Education, and to provide at least some of their remote teaching via video lessons – this could be done by school-led videos or using other providers like Oak National Academy.
Mr Williamson confirmed that children who do not have access to technology could attend school in person during the national lockdown.
He said: ‘We have set out clear, legally binding requirements for schools to provide high-quality remote education.
‘This is mandatory for all state-funded schools and will be enforced by Ofsted. We expect schools to provide between three and five teaching hours a day, depending on a child’s age.
‘If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted.
‘Ofsted will inspect schools – of any grade – where it has serious concerns about the quality of remote education being provided.’