I speak to schools every day as part of my role and there is one topic of our conversation I feel needs to be addressed...internet connectivity.
Understandably, many schools purchase their internet services from Grid for Learning Services. I say “understandably” in that as a county council-backed service, this will be viewed as a safe and authorised service that should meet the needs of schools.
However, we are discovering that more and more schools are becoming dissatisfied with the service they receive and are looking to the commercial marketplace to find something better.
The commercial marketplace, made up of suppliers like swcomms, can offer internet connections that are totally fit for purpose. The Grid for Learning services are highly contended as they are shared between secondary and primary schools in the area. All these schools are therefore battling for bandwidth and the speeds they thought they were getting will rarely be achieved, which raises the question whether they are worth what is being paid for them.
Sure, if a school opts to branch out on their own and purchase their own broadband services, they will still have to share with other users on the local exchange but I would not advise a school to rely on broadband in any case, and that includes so-called superfast fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) or fibre to the premises (FTTP) services.
Broadband was designed to be a residential product. Organisations with a high usage like schools need something far more robust and reliable. Their internet access needs the adequate bandwidth to be able to cope with all the devices used by students, staff and guests while also being able to rely on service level agreements that will get you back online within hours rather than weeks. Broadband does not come with service level agreements.
The more robust and reliable connectivity options will ensure your Wi-Fi and access to cloud-based education apps are, well, more robust and reliable too. No more having to abandon sessions in the IT suite or lessons using tablets, or facing the wrath of students who cannot take their Accelerated Reading tests because “the internet is down”.
The other reason schools stick to Grid for Learning Services is the web and content filtering options that come with them. I appreciate it is of enormous comfort for schools to know these elements of their duty of care are being met at county-council level. But many schools also find this element of their service unsatisfactory too.
These filtering services are too inflexible for many schools who want to be able to use the internet to support their students’ learning. Modern filtering services allow schools to permit access to content on a ‘who, what, when and where’ basis while always being up to date to be able to block the latest online threats.
Schools no longer have to raise tickets and wait for days to have simple changes and exceptions made. Selected content can be viewed at certain times, by certain year groups in a certain room of the school. For example, a year 11 class can view examples of Italian art featuring nudes during periods 2 and 3 on Tuesday. It really is that granular and easy to manage.
If you are a school clinging to Grid for Learning services, it may be advantageous to consider options from suppliers like swcomms. Not only can we supply your internet connectivity but can also check on and provide your data networks, Wi-Fi and filtering solutions. Our engineers are DBS-checked and we have worked with schools for more than 30 years so we truly understand your needs and frustrations.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can assist or offer advice to your school in any way.