Since last year, many parents have struggled to get devices for their children so they can participate in online classes. If you’re one of these parents, find out how you, or your school could get low-cost devices.
In 2021, the government plans to continue providing schools and sixth-form colleges with laptops and tablets to assist with home schooling, through its Get Help with Technology Programme. These devices are to be loaned, or in some cases, gifted, to disadvantaged children who need them most. Parents cannot apply themselves, they must contact their school or college.
Those who are eligible include:
- children in years 3 to 11, who don’t have access to a laptop or tablet
- children in any year, who have been told to shield
- any child in a hospital school.
Children with special education needs and disabilities could also be eligible although they may already be entitled to help through a grant from the Family Fund.
The London Grid for Learning (LGfL)
The LGfL has started a scheme called “Bridge the Divide”, aimed at supplying education providers and local authorities with low-cost Chromebooks and Winbooks.
Good Things Foundation
This charity has started a scheme called “Connecting Families”. Through their national network of community partners they have been distributing a number of devices that can be allocated to individuals in need.
Request or donate laptops from/to local groups
A number of local enterprises are starting up around the country, repurposing unwanted laptops and tablets and distributing them to those in need. You might be able to find one near you. Here are a few we found:
- The Hutong Cafe in Plymouth
- Ade’s Computer Angels in Hampshire
- The Restart Project has a list of local schemes across the UK.
If you have an old device you no longer use, then any of these schemes would be happy to receive it so that it can be refurbished and passed on to someone in need. You can also donate devices across the UK via the BBCs “Give a Laptop” scheme.
Where to buy low-cost laptops
If you need to buy a laptop for your child’s home schooling, you should be able to find a suitable one for under £200. Look for these minimum requirements:
- 4GB RAM
- 32GB storage if it’s a Chromebook
- 64GB storage if it’s a Windows machine.
This ASUS VivoBook is currently on offer at Amazon for £165.32. It’s a basic, entry-level laptop and it runs Windows 10 S (meaning only apps from the Microsoft store can be installed on it).
Spending a little more will get you a better spec machine, but if you’re on a tight budget this one will be adequate for homeschooling.
If you’re on certain benefits then you might be able to buy a laptop from Get Online At Home. They supply refurbished computers at a reduced price and laptops start from £169. If you’re not receiving any benefits, then laptops will start at £189. They also provide desktops and tablets.
Rent a laptop
If you’d prefer to rent a laptop there are various providers offering this service. Weigh up how long you'd want the laptop for. It might not work out as cost-effective if you need it for a long time. Also, check the insurance included and what would happen in the event of damage. Here are a couple of rental schemes we found:
Free or low-cost internet
Once you’ve found a machine, your child will need to be able to go online with it. It’s thought that around two million families in the UK don’t have broadband. Access to the internet is important, and now more than ever it’s essential to access online learning resources. You might be eligible for a free increase in mobile data, to support remote learning. You will need to apply through your child’s school. Find out more on the government website. If you’re on certain benefits you could get low-cost internet access from BT.
Read about how to keep children entertained at home, when they're not doing schoolwork.
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