The big news of the week came on Wednesday 8 April, with the Minister of Education, the Hon Chris Hipkins, announcing an $87.7 million plan to roll out learning from home. This will involve a combination of online, television and physical learning resources. The part that mostly affects Jump partners is the provision of internet services for households that currently do not have an internet connection. The Ministry is collaborating with all telecommunications and internet service providers to make this happen as quickly as possible, with priority being given to households with senior secondary students working towards NCEA.
Spark is contributing to this by accelerating the deployment of Jump modems, the first of which were distributed on 9 April. These are being supplied direct from the warehouse of Spark’s hardware partner, Ingram Micro. DIAA will be assisting at the national level with faulty modem returns, but we are not expecting to involve delivery partners in handing the returns or in supplying replacements.
The process for reporting faulty modems will be the same – all Jump users must contact the Skinny Helpdesk if they suspect a faulty modem; the Skinny team will attempt to resolve the problem remotely, but if they are unable to do this, they will log the modem details in an online fault register that is shared with DIAA. We will supply a replacement modem and either:
(1) a courier bag for the return of the modem to us (mainly for units supplied as part of the school programme); or
(2) instructions to hold the faulty modem until after the lockdown, when it should be returned to their nearest Jump partner (see below).
Schools are preparing for the possibility that they might need to close as a result of the COVID-19 alert and this has prompted them to take steps to ensure that all their students could continue to engage in online learning. Which of course means that their students will need a home internet connection. Schools have been checking with their students to find out how many do not have access to an internet connection at home and early indications are that this could be tens of thousands.
Some schools have already approached Jump partners requesting large quantities of Jump modems – one Auckland school has asked for 300. Clearly current Jump partners do not carry sufficient modem stocks to satisfy this demand.
The Spark Foundation and Ministry of Education are discussing a contingency plan for supporting the estimated 50,000 households that currently do not have a broadband internet connection. A roll-out on this scale will place a large strain on all types of resources, so strategies are being implemented to ensure a pragmatic, well-managed and targeted approach is taken.
We’ve been advised by the Spark Foundation that the MOE will liaise directly with schools on this matter and that schools will hear from them in due course. However, in the meantime, please remind schools that families who want to be pro-active and start preparing for the possibility of their children’s school(s) closing, are more than welcome to contact their nearest Jump provider and make an appointment to sign-up for a connection.
It would be helpful if you could let us know if any schools contact you about this – could you ask the school for an estimate of how many households could be affected and a contact name, phone and email at the school and send this to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can then make sure these schools are informed directly when the Ministry’s contingency plan is decided.