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Last reviewed on 26 June 2020
Ref: 40153
School types: All · School phases: All

The DfE is offering funded support for you to get set up on one of two free-to-use digital education platforms: G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education. Find out exactly what's on offer, whether you're eligible and how to apply.

From 22 October, schools must provide immediate access to remote learning to any pupils who can’t attend school due to COVID-19, including:

  • Individual pupils, whole classes, groups, and small numbers of pupils self-isolating
  • Pupils staying at home due to local or national restrictions (like whole-school closure)

You aren't required to use a digital education platform, but a platform can help you meet some of the DfE's expectations (like setting work each day and gauging pupil progress).

What is a digital education platform?

It's a place where your pupils' learning experience at home can continue as close to normal as possible. The platforms are purpose-built for remote learning in a way that a school website isn't. 

In short, if you access this scheme and get set up on one of the platforms, you'll be able to:

  • Assign and assess work, providing feedback remotely
  • Communicate with staff, students and parents in real time, using written word, voice and video
  • Facilitate collaboration between groups of pupils and teachers

There’s no statutory requirement to have a platform or sign up to this scheme, but there are plenty of benefits if you do. 

Individual primaries will receive £1,500 and individual secondaries £2,000. Trusts will receive £1,000 per school

What's on offer?

How much funding is available?

G Suite for Education and Office 365 Education are free-to-use platforms, but eligible schools/trusts can register to receive funded support from an accredited partner to help get set up and trained on their chosen platform. You'll be assigned a partner once you register for support (you can do this via our hub page).

Set-up funding for individual schools varies across phase: eligible primaries will receive £1,500 and eligible secondaries £2,000. Funding for academies in trusts is capped at £1,000 per school.

Who gets the funding and who pays partners?

Once you've signed up to the programme, the DfE will send you details on how to claim the funding. You can claim once the partner has finished setting up your platform.

Once the DfE releases the funds to you, you'll then need to pay the partner directly.

If you have any issues with payments or funding, you can email the DfE's payment team at diginf.payments@education.gov.uk.

Who's eligible?

This funded support is available to state-funded primary, secondary, special schools and pupil referral units in England that:

  • Don't currently have a digital education platform; or
  • Are already using Office 365 or G Suite, but are not yet set up to assign work and communicate with pupils (and haven't made accounts for their pupils)

Independent schools are not eligible for funding, but can still apply for support as long as they cover the costs themselves.

The DfE scheme only covers schools looking to get set up on G Suite for Education or Office 365 Education. Don’t apply for the scheme if you want to use a different platform.

Does it apply to trusts? 

Yes it does, and the same eligibility criteria applies (see above).

Academy leaders:
As a first step, speak to your central team about applying on your behalf.

Trust leaders:
There are benefits to all your schools being on the same platform under one tenancy, such as instant communication between staff across schools. In this instance, you should apply directly for schools within your trust.

If there's already a mix of usage between G Suite and Office 365 across your trust, then you have two options:

  1. Instruct schools that need support to apply individually, or
  2. Apply for support yourself and speak to a partner about the benefits of consolidating your schools across two separate tenancies, one for G Suite and one for Office 365

How do I apply?

Go to our hub. It links to the forms you'll need to use, and provides feature comparisons and best practice cases studies to help you choose the right platform for your school/trust.

Will these platforms continue to be free to use next year?

Yes.

There are options on both services to upgrade to additional services, but they're not required.

Please note – the platforms will remain free, but the funded support on offer is for the initial set-up. After that, the platform is yours to manage and any additional support you request from accredited partners will need to be paid for by the school/trust.

Are there child protection systems in place?

Security and privacy settings will be deployed according to Microsoft and Google standards and policies.

You'll still need to adopt sensible precautions when using the platform, as you would in school – see our article on how to build safeguarding into your remote learning. The DfE also has guidance on safeguarding and remote education.

Sources

The information in this article was sourced in discussion with the DfE.

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