Family Link allows kids to use Android phones before they can have their own full Google accounts at the age of 13, but there are some drastic limitations attached to the solution. Parents have full control over everything kids do on their phones and can set strict usage and bedtime limits. However, many parents (and kids) have lobbied that some apps should remain available to kids regardless of how long they've used their phone, especially ones important for homework and communication with parents, and it looks like Google has finally listened: It has introduced a new always allow option for apps.
In contrast to the existing no limit option, apps that you set to always allow don't count towards kids' total screen time limits and are available even once they've used up all of their allowed usage hours — provided you've set up a time limit for all apps. That's perfect for tools required for homework, such as the calculator or other learning platforms and apps required for school. Just keep in mind that this doesn't extend to bed time — apps set to always allow aren't available then, either.
We can't tell when exactly the always allow option popped up, but judging by the Wayback Machine archives, it must have happened relatively recently. A snapshot of the relevant Google help page from January doesn't have any information on the new option yet.
While this change is more than welcome, there are many things Google has to fix before some Family Link features can be truly useful for everyone. It's still not possible to set limits or exemptions for groups of apps, making it a tedious ordeal to fine-tune permissions. Time limits also continue to apply for all of a child's devices, so when a kid needs to use their Chromebook for school for hours, that might eat into their playtime on tablets or phones when apps aren't properly exempted with the new always allow option.