Suffolk Schools Wired Up To High Speed Network

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Schools, libraries and council buildings in Suffolk have been connected to a high speed network

Schools in the Eastern county of Suffolk are to benefit from a Next Generation Network (NGN) programme after they were wired up to a single high-speed network.

The programme costs £11 million and the high speed network has been delivered by Buckinghamshire-based MLL Telecom and Customer Service Direct (CSD). In actual fact CSD is a partnership created in 2004 between Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk District Council and telecoms giant BT.

The network was completed in January 2012, and is designed to give schoolchildren a taste of what a high speed network can deliver.

School Network

This is because the programme has seen schools, libraries and county council buildings across Suffolk connected to the single high speed network. So far 219 schools and 48,815 children have been linked into the Next Generation Network (NGN) programme.

A total of 318 schools have signed up including new academies and free schools across Suffolk.

“When our children leave school they will be entering a business world where high speed networks are a basic requirement, not a luxury,” said Suffolk County Councillor Graham Newman, Portfolio Holder for Children, Schools and Young People’s Services. “So it’s important they are learning in an environment that replicates that and gives them every opportunity to be successful in later life.”

The programme was undertaken after CSD had commissioned MLL Telecom to build a dedicated high speed fibre optic core network. This network initially connected about 700 sites and used a combination of  fibre and copper solution provision.

School IT

But the network is not purely for schoolchildren, after it was revealed that the network was also designed to allow shared use by any public sector organisation in Suffolk.

That said, the main focus of the network is to give schoolchildren the experience of using a high speed network, but in a safe and secure environment.

CSD cited research by the government, which apparently showed a direct correlation between network access and pupil’s attainment. And it seems that schools in Suffolk are avid consumers of data, consuming at a rate equivalent to 40 books every second.

The new network is reportedly providing an order of magnitude (x5) increase in capacity as the existing network was about to reach its limits.

“We are delighted to be delivering this new network for Suffolk’s Schools and Council services,” said CSD Programme Manager, James Crane. “On-line technology allows children to learn in new ways that are tailored for the individual pupil. This network provides a safe environment for pupils to access the internet and share resources with each other.”

ICT Education

The issue of ICT in schools is gaining higher visibility on the political radar nowadays, amid concern over a decline in the number of students taking IT-related A-levels.

Last September the government announced it would overhaul the ICT curriculum. And in  November the government promised it would introduce more relevant skills into the classroom, after the current ICT programme of study was labelled as “harmful and dull” and was damaging the UK’s economic prospects.

This comes after the education watchdog Ofsted called ICT education ‘inadequate’, while the UK’s digital, creative and hi-tech industries have also been placing pressure on the government to reintroduce coding into schools.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt for example has been a vocal critic of ICT teaching in the UK, having expressed his shock that it wasn’t a compulsory subject at GCSE level and warned that the country was in danger of “throwing away” its computer heritage.

In January the technology and science body The Royal Society warned that the biggest challenge in improving the curriculum is the lack of specialist teachers of the subject.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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