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A rapid response to help tackle the digital divide and close the learning gap.

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It’s great to have plan.com on board as we seek to tackle this inequality.

For almost two decades, education charity Teach First has been committed to building a fairer education for all by developing a range of programmes to support inspirational teaching and excellent leadership in schools in disadvantaged areas. In 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic triggered the first national lockdown, it launched the “Shut in, not shut out” campaign to ensure that children in the poorest communities did not get left even further behind. The charity quickly realised that for many students, that meant having access to technology to enable them to learn remotely.

WHAT ISSUES
DID PLAN.COM
HELP SOLVE?

plan.com helped to design and deploy a strategy to make use of the corporate donations Teach First had received in support of this cause. The two had forged a strong relationship over the previous three-year period during which plan.com was (and continues to be) both a financial supporter of the charity and a provider of connectivity to Teach First as a customer, so that the teachers it works with have suitable technology and internet support and resource in schools. Teach First knew that plan.com would be ideally placed to deliver the data and dongles (small plug-in USB devices that connect to the internet) required to the schools that needed them most so that pupils could resume their studies remotely.

Getting these “learning kits” (which also included laptops or tablets) out at speed was a top priority. “That rapid response from plan.com was so important" explained Emma Stratford, Senior Partnerships Manager – Fundraising at Teach First

Every day that these children don’t have digital connectivity is a day that they are missing out on learning

80

SCHOOLS

1,600

DEVICES

34%

lost learning due to COVID-19

The scale of online device needs that this pandemic has brought is enormous. At our school we soon learnt pupils were using smartphones to complete homework rather than accessing the school’s online work platform on a suitable device. When it comes to schoolwork, a smartphone just isn’t sufficient – but the hard truth is that some families simply can’t afford the most appropriate IT equipment.

Kathryn Hobbs – HeadTeacher David Nieper Academy
Teach First

The result.

It’s great to have plan.com on board as we seek to tackle this inequality. They understand our cause, they are passionate about what we’re doing, and their support has been invaluable to help children in need.

Once Teach First had identified the most in-need schools over a wide geographical area across the UK and put together a budget and project plan for each, plan.com developed a framework for how that budget could best be used to address schools’ data and dongle requirements and to roll out the technology. In order to ensure students had sufficient data for all their needs, which might include downloading videos or participating in live lessons, over a prolonged timeframe, it was decided that each user should have an allocation of 50 gigabytes of data over a 12-month period.

The plan.com platform was essential in providing visibility and control over this data usage. For instance, it was important that parameters could be set to prevent students from exceeding their data allowance, and that cost centres could be created for each individual school to give transparency over data consumption.

In all, around 80 schools have now been supported with more than 1,600 dongles, some of which were assigned to individual pupils, while others were given out on rotation to multiple students, depending on each school’s preference. The sentiments of this headteacher sum up the powerful impact the Teach First initiative has had. Claire Holmes, Headteacher of Monkwick Infant School in Colchester said: “We would like to say thank you so much … our families have been really touched by the gesture and are very grateful. For some of our families, the younger children have now been able to access online learning as their older siblings had been prioritised. Families have really felt cared about by receiving this gesture of support.”

Those words resonate with Emma Stratford. “It’s something that most people take for granted, but in the past year, being digitally-enabled has made the difference between learning and not learning for young people,” she says. “For many students, internet access is extremely limited, and some have none at all. This is not just a digital divide – it’s a learning divide, and evidence suggests that ten years of progress is needed to close the attainment gap due to school closures during Covid-19 lockdowns.

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