A supplementary briefing note for TESS
and others working with Traveller families
The information contained in this briefing is an update to go with the main briefing notes which were written in December 2009. The update has been written for NATT+ by Ken Marks as part of the ELAMP project. Every effort has been made to check accuracy but please note that you should check details which are important in your own working context.
These notes focus on new information about 'approved suppliers' for the Home Access package - things which families need to be aware of in choosing a package, possibilities for direct purchase if a family doens't qhalify for a grant, and some brief pointers from the Oldham and Suffolk pilots.
Ken can be contacted via email k [dot] marks [at] sheffield [dot] ac [dot] uk.
The Home Access grant scheme is now underway and parents can obtain information and an application form by phoning the national number 0333 200 1004.
This update is intended to add to the December 2009 briefing note rather than replacing them. The notes which follow focus on:
- An update on the current approved suppliers (including those currently offering direct purchase of the package)
- Some things for families to keep in mind when selecting a package
- Some brief pointers from colleagues in Suffolk and Oldham; the two LAs which were involved in the main pilot scheme last year.
The Home Access programme
We now have further information about the approved suppliers and their Home Access packages. The list is set out on the right hand column of this page. Six suppliers have been working with the programme since January and a further four have been added in April. The list gives the Home Access websites of each supplier where you can see what they each have on offer. It also gives details of national telephone numbers and some notes about how to order packages. Some providers have also teamed up with other high street retailers which means that families can go in to a local store; but normally only to process their order once they have obtained a grant.
The grant system offers three options and this is reflected on the websites. The family can just go for a computer; e.g. if the already have an internet connection at home. They can just opt for a wireless connection (e.g. if they already have a suitable computer) or they can opt for the whole package; computer plus internet access. Most families eligible for a grant will probably be going for the whole package. However families making a direct purchase may need to weigh up all the alternatives (see below).
To keep in mind
Retailers supplying approved packages are offering choices for different types of computer. Some also have adding options which may sometimes involve small surcharges even if the family has a grant. So informed choice is important.
It would be wise to check whether the school which a pupil attends would recommend one of the particular Home Access packages which are on offer. If not, a laptop will normally be the best option for most families (a netbook has a smaller screen and PCs are less portable). The websites give more details of what comes with each package but it may be worth double checking that the chosen computer has an integral DVD drive and has WiFi capability.
In addition the retailers are offering different choices for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the current choices seem to be ‘3’, ‘Orange’, ‘T Mobile’ or ‘Tiscali’ if you have a suitable fixed telephone line. As explained in the December briefing notes, whichever ISP comes with a particular package you choose, the retailer can only do limited checks on internet connectivity for your home/base address. If choosing an option offered by a mobile phone company, there are no guarantees that families will get an adequate internet connection once they set up their computer back at the home. [They may be in a blackspot just as can happen with a mobile phone.] As also explained in the December notes, if they have a grant for the package they have a ‘right of return’ but they need to act quickly, and one supplier, Comet, may make a 10% handling charge for this. Families who are making a direct purchase do not have an automatic right of return and should discuss options with the retailer when making their purchase.
Some families may find that none of the mobile phone ISPs give them adequate coverage at home and they may need to explore using the equipment at other locations if they possibly can (Locations with WiFi may also be an option).
Families who don’t qualify for a grant may also wish to purchase one of the packages on offer. In particular, they offer good value for money for a family with children which hasn’t yet explored the educational value of a computer and internet access. They have been set up with ‘beginners’ in mind as well as having an eye to e-safety. They also come with a useful range of pre-installed software. The basic package, with internet connectivity for a year, costs from £528, including VAT1. Three of the original six suppliers are known to offer this direct purchase option, although that could change over time. Each of these three suppliers suggests that a family should phone their freephone number first if they wish to explore this option (see details in the right hand column of this page). The four new suppliers are all considering direct sale options as well, and one is also considering a rental alternative.
If a family decides to go ahead and purchase the package, or just the computer, they also need to be aware that they have to order the ‘Assistive Technology’ part of the package separately if they want it, and that there is a small extra charge for this; of the order of £45. Once the family receives the computer they will find that they are offered this option if they click on one of the three items of software which make up the Assistive Technology suite. (They can click, for example, on the ‘Read and Write 9’ icon on the desktop).
This extra software is again very good value for money and consists of a ‘Read and Write’ facility which is great for literacy work, mind mapping tools which are very useful for planning projects or essays (or even holidays!) and a ‘Zoom’ tool to enlarge text, change background colours, etc.
1. A family can also purchase just the computer or just the internet connectivity parts of the package.
SOME FINAL POINTERS FROM THE SUFFOLK AND OLDHAM PILOTS
- Be ready and proactive in providing literacy support with applications, communications and instructions for setting up equipment
- Most families will need advice/help in choosing the right package for them
- The packages come with set up instructions and are meant to be ‘plug and play’ However, don’t underestimate the technical support which families will need to get set up and started.(even with the helplines provided)!