All schools to enjoy high-speed internet access by 2025 – Zahawi

Addressing the Bett Show, the education secretary said that the high-speed internet pledge would be supported by the issuing of a new set of technology standards for schools

All schools will have high-speed internet access by 2025, the education secretary has announced.

Nadhim Zahawi made the claim when he remotely addressed the Bett Show in London last month, adding that the ambition would be facilitated by a £150m fund for “most in need” schools to upgrade their wifi connections.

The Department for Education (DfE) will contact schools in priority areas to expedite rollout of faster, more reliable connectivity.

Zahawi also announced that the DfE would be setting out its first set of technology standards.

“We will provide support to help meet these standards for schools that need it,” he said.

“Any child or student – or teacher, for that matter – has to be able to walk into any classroom totally confident that everything in it works.”

From the archive: Schools need ultrafast broadband

Following his address, the DfE published guidance stipulating that primary schools should have a “minimum 100Mbps download speed and a minimum of 30Mbps upload speed”, while secondary and all-through schools should have a “connection with the capacity to deliver 1Gbps download and upload speed”.

Standards are also being laid out in areas including safeguarding children online, data protection, and resilience of broadband connectivity.

Elsewhere in his speech, the minister spoke of the “huge debt” owed to the edtech firms who had offered their wares for free during lockdown, invoking the words of Michael Gove as he insisted that “we have to keep up this momentum, what one of my predecessors called the ‘restless spirit of technological innovation’.”

To that end, he called for “an environment where it is easy for tried and trusted digital products to be taken up by our teachers… [and] an ecosystem where good tools can spread quickly across and between families of schools and colleges.”

Any child or student – or teacher, for that matter – has to be able to walk into any classroom totally confident that everything in it works – Nadhim Zahawi

Schools should be using linked, cloud-based data systems “across the board”, said Zahawi.

“Data and evidence, shared transparently, are key to improving complex systems,” he added, citing the ongoing national trial to automate pupil attendance data as an example of how to spot and solve problems.

Calling for “a new culture of evidence-based use of technology embedded in every school,” the minister said: “I would like to challenge the edtech providers to build that evidence base – what is the impact of your product on learning outcomes? – and then to share it openly.”

Schools will be hoping that the high-speed internet announcement fares better than a similar one made at the last election. A government manifesto pledge to deliver nationwide gigabit broadband by 2025 was scrapped within a year, before being revived with a new date – 2030 – in February’s Levelling Up white paper.

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