The Government will help schools in England deliver lessons via the internet to pupils who are at home due to the pandemic.
Primary and secondary schools that don’t have a digital education platform can apply for funding and receive technology that will enable teachers to securely send content to students and communicate with them.
Microsoft is supporting the scheme and will connect schools with accredited partners who can get help them to start using Office 365 Education.
O365 Education contains Microsoft Teams, web editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, plus additional classroom tools.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “As schools, parents and children adapt to the changing environment we are all faced with, it is vital that we provide them with the right support so young people are able to continue their education.
“Through close partnership with the education sector and two of the world’s biggest tech companies, we are working to ensure that children can continue their studies while they are at home.
“Laptops and tablets for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils are on their way and will begin being distributed in weeks, enabling those most in need to access online resources.”
The news follows announcements last week that laptops and 4G routers would be made available to disadvantaged students that need them.
Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, said that children “in the most vital stages of their education, those who receive support from a social worker and care leavers” will be given free devices so they can continue learning at home during the pandemic.
Most children in the UK have been at home since the Government announced measures to tackle the pandemic on March 23, with only key workers’ kids going to classes in school. The Department for Education has moved to help teachers continue to teach their pupils during the summer term.
Under the Government’s plan, responsible bodies (those organisations that oversee schools and social care services) will be able to order laptops, while schools will be able to apply for funding for cloud services.
Schools will then work with partners of the technology companies involved in the project who will set up those products and provide support and training free of charge.
Schools will retain ownership of the laptops once the lockdown ends and pupils return to their classrooms.
Microsoft’s involvement builds on the company’s recent announcement that its FastTrack team will provide free support to education customers so they can embrace remote learning. Experts can help set up a new O365 Education system or work with schools who may only have experience of basic services, such as email, to use Microsoft Teams and other popular programs.
Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, said: “Schools across the UK are facing unprecedented challenges as their staff demonstrate incredible resilience, imagination and passion to ensure children are safe and able to keep learning while at home.
“We’re proudly working with the Department for Education to support the rollout of remote learning technology to those who need it. For some time now, Microsoft has offered Office 365 for Education free for schools and we continue working on a number of fronts to support the education community with the latest technology during this difficult time.”
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