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The UK Department for Education has hired Google and Microsoft to support remote schooling, as school closures continue amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government has also written to organisations overseeing schools and children’s social care, such as local authorities and trusts, to advise them how they can order devices as part of its £100m investment to provide internet access and computers to disadvantaged children.
Since UK schools closed on 20 March, pupils and their parents and carers have quickly had to adapt to home learning.
Following the agreements with Microsoft and Google, schools will receive support to access and use the education platforms offered by the tech giants.
Support includes online resources, help getting set up, webinars and peer-to-peer support between schools.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said: “Through a 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.”
Schools will be able to use Google for Education as part of the agreement.
Liz Sproat, head of education at Google in Europe, said: “This is a challenging time for UK schools, educators, parents and students and this initiative by the Department for Education provides vital support to schools seeking to enable remote learning.
“We are delighted that our suite of tools, resources and our partners can help schools maintain learning during these difficult times.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Office 365 Education will also be available. Microsoft UK CEO Cindy Rose 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 are proudly working with the Department for Education to support the roll-out 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.”
Essential guide to IT and coronavirus
Essential guide to technology readiness for the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis, featuring best practice advice on:
- Remote working.
- IT security.
- IT infrastructure.
- NHS and technology.
- Business and government response.
Click here to read Computer Weekly’s coverage of IT and the coronavirus outbreak.