Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has announced a new commitment to bring “lightning-fast” gigabit-capable broadband to all schools in England by 2025.
Speaking at BETT, the conference for educational technology, in London, Zahawi said the investment in schools’ connectivity is “the latest way we are levelling up education across the country.”
To achieve the 2025 target, the government has announced a £150 million fund to support schools most in need of upgrading their broadband connections. Over the next three years, the Department for Education (DfE) will reach out to schools in 55 previously identified Education Investment Areas to facilitate the introduction of “faster and more reliable connectivity,” the government said.
Those areas are where school outcomes are the weakest, as identified in the Levelling Up White Paper in February.
“Getting faster broadband into schools is crucial to levelling up. It means teachers can spend more time teaching instead of staring at loading screens and will put the benefits of interactive and internet-powered technology at more students’ fingertips,” said Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez.
The investment in broadband connectivity addresses one of teachers’ top concerns in schools, said Caroline Wright, director general of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).
“Our research of 1,000s of schools annually shows that teachers' top three concerns are connectivity and infrastructure, ICT [information and communications technology] training, and a lack of funding. I’m glad that the DfE has listened to the evidence on this occasion and is announcing plans to improve connectivity and provide digital standards guidance to better help schools understand the baseline infrastructure that is needed to start addressing the digital divide that exists in our schools,” she said.
The investment was also welcomed by Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. “It is really important to seize the opportunities offered by technology to enhance the learning experience of young people and having the right infrastructure in place and evidence base of what works is vital in achieving that goal,” he said.
Schools are very keen to make the best possible use of technology for their students, and many already do fantastic work in this direction. Anything which helps will be warmly received,” he added.
The government also pointed to its previous investment in the connectivity of children and young people, including already putting 1.9 million laptops and tablets in the hands of disadvantaged pupils and supporting 1,000 schools in hard-to-reach rural areas to get superfast broadband.
The government said the latest investment in schools' digital infrastructure comes in addition to the £5 billion it’s spending to bring faster broadband to millions of rural homes and businesses through Project Gigabit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that 85% of UK homes and businesses will be able to access gigabit (1Gbps/1,000Mbps+) connectivity by 2025, although industry experts and MPs have warned that the goal might be out of reach.
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