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Slow broadband 'slowing down' pupils, says headmaster

Tuesday, October 7th 2014 by Hannah Langston

Limited access to the internet is hampering students’ progress at a school in rural Wales, according to its headmaster.

Treffos School, on the Isle of Anglesey, has 140 pupils and its broadband speed dropped from 4Mbps to 2Mbps a year ago.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, headmaster Dr Stuart Humphreys (pictured) said: “The broadband is so bad I can’t even get it in my office sometimes and staff in classrooms often struggle if a group of children are accessing the internet more than one at a time.

“We want to be a cutting edge school but the lack of this key resource means that the children are getting frustrated at the slow speed. The poor broadband is slowing down children’s enthusiasm.

“It’s horrific when we have targets set by the government in terms of IT learning provision.”

“It’s a frustrating situation for staff, pupils and parents. There’s no roadmap from BT for making us more efficient with fibre,” Dr Humphreys added.

“Estyn (the welsh equivalent of Ofsted) place emphasis on literacy numeracy and ICT. It’s a core subject and we want to get an ‘excellent’ but we would have to give children more frequent access to better broadband speeds in order to get this.”

Treffos is the only independent school on the Isle of Anglesey, which is separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait.

A BT spokesperson told us: “At the moment, Openreach is the only infrastructure provider supplying a broadband service to Treffos School. We have also spent more than any other company to roll out fibre broadband to more than 20 million premises across the UK. “That number is rising all the time, and already includes many premises on Anglesey under our Superfast Cymru partnership with the Welsh Government.

“However the speeds we can offer are dependent on the distance between our street cabinet and their property – and in this case the school is a long way from the cabinet in a remote location. We could install a dedicated line, which would offer the school superfast speeds and service guarantees. This would be the most appropriate service for their needs.”

Dr Humphreys told us that BT wanted to charge the school £8-10,000 for a leased line.

No spokesperson from Estyn was able to comment on what the organisation is doing to help support schools with poor broadband connections, but did refer us to its 2013 report on the impact of ICT on pupils’ learning in primary schools.

The report highlights that £39m has been made available by the Welsh government to improve broadband connectivity. However, a spokesperson for Digital Wales told us that independent schools such as Treffos will not be eligible for funding.

Last week, the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) revealed that Anglesey schools were among the worst affected by poor access to ICT.

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