Edtech charity announces UK-wide broadband for schools

New Ignite network will replace copper connections with fibre broadband in member institutions

The LGfL is to change its name as it announces the nationwide rollout of a supercharged broadband network.

The London Grid for Learning – known as LGfL – is to be renamed the National Grid for Learing (NGfL) after it gained the trademark of the now defunct government edtech scheme.

The NGfL was a government-funded initiative launched in 1998 to help teachers and students benefit from information and communications technology (ICT).

Now, as custodians of the trademark, the rebranded London-based edtech charity has announced its ambition to help schools across the country.

LGfL – which was shortlisted for three BETT Awards this year – will continue the work of the National Grid for Learning by spending over £50m on an internet network for schools that has the capacity to support the transition to Cloud computing and keep children and data safe.

The charity marked the beginning of the project by rolling out new high-speed fibre broadband to 80 schools in Essex, replacing copper connections at a discounted rate.

The supercharged broadband venture – which will be known as Ignite – will be among the largest and fastest school networks of its kind in the world. According to the charity, internet usage in schools has flat-lined in recent years, but with cloud storage, 4K streaming and the number of internet-enabled devices set to rise, schools’ internet requirements are expected to surge.

Every LGfL member school will be connected to the new network with a minimum of 100MB. The vast majority of member secondary schools will be transitioned to between 500 MBPS and 1GBPS. These upgrades will come at no additional cost to member schools, the charity confirmed. The system will have built-in defence architecture for schools called CyberCloud – a seven-layer security solution that includes internet filters, double firewalling and access to free Malwarebytes licences.

“We feel very proud that we are now custodians of the NGfL trademark and felt it should be preserved and cherished,” said edtech strategist and LGfL CEO, John Jackson.

“LGfL believes that a new NGfL is about the digital transformation of UK education. It is a much broader ambition combining digital innovation, next generation networking, cloud computing, professional development, cost reduction, creative skills and wider organisational change,” he added.

Teasing international ambitions, Mr Jackson added: “Looking ahead, our intention is to make LGfL the Global Cloud for Learning, so watch this space!”

In our view it is easy to adopt technology and fill a school with shiny new kit. It is much harder to change the school, so it becomes an organisation that is digital by default
– John Jackson, LGfL

The London-based charity was recently announced as one of three delivery partners for the government’s new edtech demonstrator programme.

Announcing its new network, LGfL said it had already saved member schools an estimated £1m with its new agreement with Creative Cloud. The charity’s SmartBuy aggregated procurement system helps unlock subscription savings by leveraging the combined purchasing power of member institutions.

Despite the emphasis on new digital systems, Mr Jackson said the charity’s primary ambition was training teachers.

“In our view it is easy to adopt technology and fill a school with shiny new kit. It is much harder to change the school, so it becomes an organisation that is digital by default.

“A school that has mastered the use of cloud in the classroom, uses data to drive decision making and policy, has empowered teachers who are confident in using technology and is transforming pedagogy through the potential that technology can bring for children.

“In most cases the delta between adoption and absorption is too large and technology becomes an expensive millstone rather than inspiring children and reducing teacher burdens. To help schools LGfL has created a team called Inspire to assist schools make decisions about technology and we are working on new tools and frameworks to assist digital absorption in schools.”