If your child needs a laptop to learn from home, you may be able to claim one through your school. Every child deserves equal access to online learning, so if yours is eligible for a free laptop, you can find out how to request one here.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced a scheme to supply laptops for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, so they can access the same educational resources as their peers and keep up in the classroom.
See how the government laptop scheme works, who is eligible for a free laptop, and how you can claim one for your child.
How does the laptop donation scheme work?
As the Coronavirus took hold in the UK and schools were forced to close for the first time last year, the government's Department for Education pledged to supply one million laptops to disadvantaged pupils across the country. This then increased to 1.3 million after the second wave struck in early 2021.
The Get Help with Technology scheme allows schools, colleges, independent training providers and other educational institutions to request free laptops for their disadvantaged students. These students are identified by the school, in line with a list of eligibility requirements set out by the government.
The education provider can then request the number of free devices they need for the disadvantaged students in their school.
This means individual parents, caregivers or students can’t claim a free laptop themselves. You instead have to ensure your child’s school is aware of their situation and knows to assign them a free laptop or tablet through the scheme. More information on how to do this can be found below.
Is my child eligible for a free laptop or tablet?
The government has set out a number of specific requirements your child must meet to qualify for a free laptop. If their situation falls into one or more of the following categories, they will likely be eligible for a device:
- They have no internet connection at home
- There are no digital devices in the household
- They have access to a smartphone, but not a laptop or tablet
- They’re sharing a single laptop or tablet with more than one family member
If your household doesn’t have a good enough internet connection for your child to learn from home, you can request a free wireless router from the scheme too.
How to apply for a free laptop or tablet for your child
As mentioned above, parents can’t claim a free laptop for low income families through the government’s Get Help with Technology scheme. Therefore, the best thing you can do is speak to your child’s school, college or education provider and they can request one instead.
If you’re part of a school or education provider and you’re ordering for disadvantaged students in your institution, Gov.uk has a step-by-step guide for ordering laptops or tablets from the scheme.
If your child’s school can’t claim a free laptop through the government’s scheme, or they are ineligible for a free device, you may have to look towards subsidised laptops or tablets instead.
Subsidy schemes for laptops, tablets and computers
There are a number of organisations that help to improve low income families’ access to technology. And while they don’t provide free laptops or tablets, they will add a significant discount in order to make them more accessible to disadvantaged groups.
Get Online @ Home
One example is Get Online @ Home, which provides refurbished second-hand laptops and tablets at a huge discount to people who qualify for its subsidy scheme.
It offers computers from as little as £99, which is a lot more reasonably-priced than new devices. Plus, since they’ve been properly refurbished, they’ll likely be in a better condition than other similarly-priced second hand computers too.
To be eligible for discounted devices from Get Online @ Home, you need to either:
- Be a UK-registered charity
- Have a disability
- Be part of a low-income household receiving government financial support
- Live in an area with “limited access” to electronic devices
Why a laptop is important for learning from home
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of disruption over the past 18 months. And one of the most severely affected areas has been education, as the two waves caused schools to close down to prevent the spread of the virus.
While the school closures were tough for every pupil and parent, they had a much worse impact on families who didn’t have enough devices for each of their children to attend online lessons and do their work.
It highlighted a growing issue that existed for a long time before COVID-19 — the digital divide amongst school students. According to Ofcom, between 1.1 and 1.8 million children didn’t have access to a laptop or tablet for learning at home at the start of 2021. This put them at a huge disadvantage against their peers when schools closed for several weeks.
But regardless of closures, more lessons, homework assignments and additional learning materials are being delivered online each year. And pandemic or not, there is a wealth of information on the internet that every school child could benefit from. That’s why it’s essential children have access to a laptop or tablet at this crucial point in their life.
Read about what broadband providers are doing to help customers during COVID-19 to see if you could benefit from a range of new initiatives.