A bit of background information
With new government promises to invest a further £150m into the provision of high-speed internet for every school in England by 2025, a clear definition is required as to what constitutes high-speed internet and where schools should be benchmarking themselves to meet the requirements of effective of teaching and learning in the 21st Century.
Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education, said:
“We need to use our experience from the pandemic as a springboard to embed new and better ways of using technology in schools, and across education. This new investment moves us a giant step forward to helping ensure that every school across the country has the best technology.”
Caroline Wright, Director General of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), also stated that research indicated teachers’ top three concerns were “connectivity and infrastructure, ICT training, and a lack of funding” and so arrived the release of Meeting digital and technology standards in schools and colleges
Digital and Technology Standards in Schools and Colleges – A Summary
The government has specified that these standards should be used as guidelines to support schools and colleges to use the right digital infrastructure and technology.
The standards can help schools and colleges with:
- budgeting for technology procurement and maintenance
- buying technology equipment and services
- renewing a contract with a technology provider to ensure these purchases meet your needs
After reading this guidance schools are advised to:
- Review the standards and see if your school or college meets them
- Speak with your ICT support team to find out what can be done if you’re not currently meeting the standards
The Standards highlight that:
- Schools should use a “full-fibre connection for their broadband service” to ensure they will get the fastest speed available.
- Schools should have a “backup broadband connection to ensure resilience and maintain continuity of service”.
- Schools are advised to “implement this standard as soon as you can”.
- The DfE already expects schools to have appropriate IT security and safeguarding systems in place to comply with statutory guidance on keeping children safe in education.
- Schools are also now advised to install security features on their wireless networks in order to “stop unauthorised access” and “misuse of sensitive school or student data”.
- This standard should be met when a school next upgrades an “underperforming or unsupported solution”.
- Elsewhere, schools are advised to ensure they have a “fully functional” Wi-Fi signal throughout their school site and the ability to “centrally manage” their network.
For more detail and to quickly bring you up to speed, we have summarised the DfE guidance on how these requirements should be met:
Broadband Internet Standards
- Schools and colleges should use a full-fibre connection for their broadband service
- Primary schools should have a minimum 100Mbps download speed and a minimum of 30Mbps upload speed
- Secondary schools, all-through schools and further education colleges should have a connection with the capacity to deliver 1Gbps download and upload speed
- Schools and colleges should have a backup broadband connection to ensure resilience and maintain continuity of service
Full-fibre connections are sometimes described as:
- a leased line
- fibre to the premises (FTTP)
Note: copper connections, while widely used in schools at present, do not meet this standard.
Full-fibre services provide the capacity and speed needed for the effective use of online learning tools.
Getting the fastest speed you can afford has a wide range of benefits including:
- enabling teachers to have the confidence to make full use of online resources as integral parts of teaching and learning
- saving money by using cloud-based solutions instead of on-site technical infrastructure, products or services – for example, VOIP telephony
- full-fibre services provide flexibility to future-proof schools and colleges as demand for internet services increases.
When to meet the standard:
You should be looking to implement this standard as soon as you can. This is usually at the end of any existing contract term or as soon as full-fibre is available in your area.
Schools and colleges should have appropriate IT security and safeguarding systems in place, under both child and data protection legislation
- It’s essential that children are safeguarded from potentially harmful and inappropriate online material
- An effective whole school and college approach to online safety, empowers schools and colleges to protect and educate students and staff in their use of technology.
When to meet the standard:
You should already be meeting this standard as a part of the ongoing safeguarding requirements as set out in the statutory safeguarding guidance on keeping children safe in education.
You should already have a content filtering system in place which meets the requirements outlined in the online safety section of keeping children safe in education, paragraphs 123-135.
You should also ensure that you have a firewall as part of your internet and network system.
Wireless network standards for schools and colleges
- Schools should use the latest wireless network standard approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance and use the Wi-Fi 6 standard.
- Schools should have a fully functional signal from your wireless network throughout the school or college buildings and externally where required.
Via your ICT Support team, you will need to ensure that the solution will:
- provide active signal management and load balancing of user or device connectivity
- have tools that can be used to configure the wireless access points, monitor performance and provide alerts in the event of a failure
- include a manufacturer warranty and support arrangements including licenses, software enhancements and firmware updates
- include an on-site, system administrator training package, that is manufacturer-approved and that covers all security elements for the solution
- be scalable and can accommodate future higher bandwidth requirements
- be capable of providing a configuration file that allows the solution to be reset to the original configuration for the school
Because you will have a high number of users accessing the network at the same time, it is essential that you have a high-performance solution that will make sure that the speed and management of data transferred around the network is efficient, secure and doesn’t slow down as more devices join the network.
The speed of your wireless connection may be affected by your internal network cabling and switches.
How to meet the standard:
Like with mobile phones, a good wireless connection relies on signal strength. It’s important to make sure there is strong signal coverage in all areas of your school where mobile devices are to be used. To enable this, you should have wireless access points installed across the site. This could be up to one per classroom.
Ensure that the number of access points provides coverage in each space that is in line with the planned occupation level. This is to support simultaneous use without reducing the performance.
You should ensure that your wireless provider designs a solution that fully meets your needs. This should include using wireless heat mapping as part of initial planning and ensuring that impact from building management systems and other networks is minimised.
A wireless network will be made up of many wireless access points. A central management solution will allow your support team to monitor and configure your network and identify and resolve issues.
It should also have the functionality to deliver software security updates automatically as soon as they are available. Manual checks should also be undertaken.
Network switching standards for schools and colleges
- Your network switches should provide fast, reliable and secure connections to all users both wired and wireless. Core network switches should also be connected to at least one uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to reduce the impact of outages
- Schools should have a platform that can centrally manage the network switching infrastructure
- The network switches should have security features to protect users and data from unauthorised access.
Because you will have a high number of users accessing the network at the same time, it is essential that you have a high-performing solution that will ensure the speed and management of data transferred around the network is efficient, secure and doesn’t slow down as more devices join the network.
An outage of part or all of the network would cause disruption to teaching and admin operations.
Your computer network will also have many users accessing and transferring data. A central management console will allow the control and monitoring of the network efficiently and securely to ensure effective performance.
School networks should prevent access by unauthorised users while giving access to regular and guest users. Without adequate security, you may allow unauthorised users access to secure information stored by the school, such as student records.
When to meet the standard
You should meet the standard when you need to replace your current solution that is unsupported or underperforming.
Note: Switches that connect to wireless access points, CCTV and telephones must comply with the correct Power over Ethernet (PoE) requirements outlined by the device manufacturer.
Manufacturer warranties and support arrangements (telephone, email and web) including licenses, software enhancements and firmware updates, should provide 5 years of cover as a minimum.
Network cabling standards for schools and colleges
- Copper cabling should be Category 6A (Cat 6A)
- Optical fibre cabling should be a minimum 16 core multi-mode OM4
- New cabling should be installed and tested in line with the manufacturer’s guidance, warranty terms, and conditions
Category 6A cabling provides greater data capacity than previous copper cabling standards. It will provide schools and colleges the flexibility to increase the volume and specification of the technology they will need to connect to their networks.
The quality and specification of the school’s or college’s cabling (passive infrastructure) plays a critical role in making sure that data is transferred around the school.
Faulty or low specification cabling will have a negative impact on the quality of network performance.
When to meet the standard:
You should meet the standard when you need to replace your current solution when underperforming, in new school building projects, or when you upgrade your wireless network.
Get in touch!
Dataspire is already helping hundreds of schools to meet these standards so why don’t you get in touch to find out more about how we can help you to provide equal learning opportunities for the students at your school.