The BBC tonight promised hours of daily educational programmes amid mounting fears poor pupils are being locked out of online learning during the new coronavirus shutdown.

The corporation revealed its CBBC channel will feature three hours of primary school shows a day from next Monday, while BBC2 will have two hours daily for secondary school students. Director-general Tim Davie said: ‘The BBC is here to play its part and I am delighted that we have been able to bring this to audiences so swiftly.’

The move – described by Boris Johnson as ‘fantastic’ – came amid concerns struggling families could be charged almost £2,000 a month if children used pay-as-you-go tariffs for online learning. The prime minister said the government would work with tech firms to bring costs down – but stopped short of specific promises. ‘We’re going to do our best to support pupils in any way we can and work with the internet companies to see what we can do to help,’ he said.

Meanwhile, education secretary Gavin Williamson has been urged to clarify whether any exams will go ahead this school year. He is expected to update MPs tomorrow on how A-level and GCSE pupils will be assessed, after the PM said it would not be ‘possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer’.

Ofcom figures show almost 1million children can only access the internet using mobile phone data, often on costly pay-as-you-go tariffs, while up to 559,000 pupils have no online access at all. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer yesterday demanded Mr Johnson impose pressure on tech firms to abolish or subsidise data fees for pupils. He said: ‘Everybody needs to try to make this work and that includes the companies that can take away the charging for data.’

Online classroom firm Oak National Academy, whose lessons use 250MB of data each when downloaded, found four lessons a day could cost £97 for 1,000MB on standard pay-as-you-go deals.

This rose to 10,000MB and £970 over a fortnight and £18,915 across a 39-week school year – equivalent to a year’s private education. England has 8.89million state school pupils, with at least 1.4million eligible for free school meals.

Urging tech firms to ‘zero-rate’ educational websites and platforms, Oak National Academy principal Matt Hood warned: ‘Once again it’s the poorest families that are hit hardest, with the risk of being locked out of lockdown learning altogether.’

National Education Union secretary Mary Bousted urged: ‘This can only come from the top, with the prime minister speaking to communications companies and making that change.’ BT, EE, Sky Mobile, Smarty, Tesco Mobile, Three and Virgin Mobile are working with the Department for Education on a plan to give 20GB of free data per month to struggling families. Vodafone has given out 330,000 SIM cards to schools and may also join the scheme.