Ultrafast broadband helping Leicestershire schools stay connected

Some of Leicestershire’s most rural primary schools are using new, full-fibre broadband to connect teachers, students and parents during the current coronavirus lockdown. 

The schools, all part of Learn Academies Trust (Learn-AT), are keeping essential services running made possible by a recent grant which enabled them to upgrade to some of the fastest broadband available in the UK.

Faster speeds are enabling staff to work remotely, access school systems, take part in video conferencing with colleagues, plan and set lessons for pupils, complete online training and stay in touch with parents through email and social media.

The improved connectivity was made possible through a grant scheme from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Openreach and Leicestershire County Council.

The schools which received grants were; Blaby Stokes CE Primary School, Church Langton CE Primary School, Great Bowden CE Academy, Lubenham All Saints CE Primary School, Red Hill Field Primary School in Narborough and Ridgeway Primary Academy in Market Harborough. 

Blake Pain, Acting Deputy Leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: "Through this nationwide scheme, this was the largest broadband grant given to a single organisation in the UK. We are very proud to continue to work towards providing great broadband across Leicestershire.Ensuring that Leicestershire schools, businesses and residents, are equipped with the latest technology is vital to our prosperity. Keeping our communities connected during times like this will make Leicestershire a future-proof and modern county."

Stef Edwards, Learn-AT’s Leader, said: ‘Being able to see and talk to each other online every day so easily has been invaluable to the way we have been able to manage this enormous challenge. Our staff can keep in touch with children and families in need of support. Teachers can create and share pupils’ learning resources together.

“It is so important to support everyone during times of uncertainty and potential anxiety. And, of course, we are all looking forward to exploring the very exciting possibilities for children’s online learning when normal school life returns."

Six of the Trust’s rural schools benefited from the programme aimed at improving resources and broadband connectivity in rural areas.People living close by to the upgraded schools have also received an uplift in broadband speed, thanks to this scheme. This will also help them keep in touch with friends and family, work from home and stream and download movies and music.

The new broadband network was built by engineers from Openreach, the UK’s largest phone and broadband network, used by the likes of Sky, BT, TalkTalk and Plusnet.

Matt Bateman, Openreach’s Director for Infrastructure Development said: “We’ve been playing a leading role in connecting the nation for many years, but it’s never felt as important as it does right now. "With so many people learning and working from home, we’re seeing 30 per cent more internet traffic in the East Midlands compared to a typical week before social distancing rules were introduced. But the good news is that the network is extremely resilient and coping just fine.”

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, said: “We have invested £8 million providing rural schools in Leicestershire with faster gigabit-speed broadband. On top of this we have pledged £5 billion to bring faster internet to hard-to-reach areas right across the country. "This means more children can benefit from this important technology and continue learning in this difficult time, as we urge the nation to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives."

More schools across Leicestershire who are struggling with out of date broadband are due for an upgrade in the next phase of the scheme, which will begin later this year. The Superfast Leicestershire programme, to date, has upgraded 96% of Leicestershire to fibre broadband.

To check whether you can upgrade the broadband in your home to faster and more reliable fibre, visit: www.superfastleicestershire.org.uk