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Government funding for school wifi upgrades: “A once in a lifetime opportunity”

Schoolchildren use tablets in a classroom as a teacher supervises them

The Department for Education’s Connect the Classroom scheme offers funding for schools and multi-academy trusts to upgrade their wifi, which in turn can greatly improve ICT as a whole, and “make ICT exciting”.

A multi-academy trust is urging other schools and trusts to take advantage of a government-funded “once in a lifetime opportunity” to improve wifi connectivity, which can in turn help “make ICT exciting” for students and staff alike.

Having used DfE’s Connect the Classroom funding to upgrade to wifi 6, Doncaster-based Exceed Learning Partnership now reports all its students can use their tablets at the same time without any connectivity issues, meaning fewer interruptions and distractions in the classroom – and a boost for Exceed’s commitment to ‘equity for all’.

Working closely with education ICT specialists from AdEPT Education, Exceed’s deputy CEO, Andy Hibbitt, describes the scheme as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” that can have a “significant” impact on learning and teaching, helping to “make ICT exciting”.

His comments are reflected in a new video exploring the DfE scheme, where he spoke to AdEPT Education, saying:

“We value ICT very highly in order to deliver the best for our pupils – and we value the infrastructure needed for this so our colleagues can deliver the very best.

“Our connectivity was average before we got involved with this project. We’ve already invested heavily in our equipment and the software but we wanted to provide the connectivity to get the most out of those things.”

In the video, he explains the process of applying for funding – starting with assessing eligibility across all Exceed’s academies, sourcing applications from a range of suppliers, submitting these to the DfE, before being awarded the funding.

From there, AdEPT Education stepped in to roll out the upgrades, which Andy describes as taking two to three days per academy.

He adds: “There were no issues with downtime – all installations took place at weekends and evenings; testing also took place before staff and pupils came onto site… AdEPT Education did all the upgrades in a timely and efficient manner.

“The impact on teaching and learning has been significant – we’d invested heavily in a range of different devices, but this now means is we can maximise the use of them.

“Our pupils now have access to iPads and utilise them at the same time without any issues on connectivity – and they can be connected to our Promethean screens and interactive whiteboards so we can really innovate in the classrooms and make ICT exciting as part of everyday learning.”

Leading the Connect the Classroom work at AdEPT Education is Commercial Director Mike McEwen, who in the video explains more general points about the scheme.

He says: “Connect the Classroom was launched in 2021, and is now in waves five and six, with funding allocated to 5areas across the UK, known as ‘education investment areas’.”

“Schools and multi-academy trusts can apply directly to the DfE, or alternatively, AdEPT Education can help with checking eligibility, the survey process, and managing the specification that’s required by the DfE.”

Mike also describes how, in upgrading its wifi, it can help a school future-proof its network, bringing improvements in speed and security – enhancing both the learning and teaching experience in the classroom.

He adds: “We’ve worked with more than 100 schools for Connect the Classroom – and as part of that process have carried out free surveys across the UK, which includes looking at schools’ existing wifi infrastructure, and producing free heat maps. We’re also in the process of working with an additional 43 schools.”

The Connect the Classroom scheme is part of a wider DfE programme that sets out to improve internet connectivity in schools across England. The latest round of Connect the Classroom funding – £150 million – was announced by the former Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, at the Bett Show in March 2022.

AdEPT Education CEO Phil Race does not appear in the video but with two children who are school teachers, he has both a personal and professional interest in the scheme. He says: “The education sector has always embraced technology and innovation, and having worked closely with schools through he pandemic, we’ve seen first-hand how they invested in new technology – such as remote teaching platforms, and laptops and tablets for pupils – to ensure teachers kept teaching and students kept learning.

“However, so much of that technology depends on reliable, fast and secure connectivity, so it stands to reason that schools and multi-academy trusts are now embracing the Connect the Classroom scheme.

“We’re delighted Exceed Learning Partnership has found the wifi upgrade so beneficial – and thank the trust for sharing their experiences. Thinking about other schools and trusts, even if they choose another ICT partner, the funding is limited, so we urge those organisations to take full advantage of the scheme so they too can benefit from improved connectivity.”

Schools and trusts looking for more first-hand insights can watch the full video with Exceed Learning Partnership.

Additionally, schools and trusts can find answers to the most common questions about the scheme in this blog, or for one-to-one advice can complete AdEPT Education Connect the Classroom form here, call directly on 01302 774820, or email [email protected].

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