ICT and communications are a vital part of the modern world—with such reliance on these modern technologies, it is important that all sectors have reliable and fast WiFi and internet connectivity.
Schools are no different, but in an era of tightening budgets and rising supply costs, it can be difficult to set aside money to make improvements to your schools WiFi infrastructure—that is exactly what the Connect the Classroom Grant Scheme is for.
What is the DfE Connect the Classroom Fund?
The Department for Education Connect the Classroom fund is a scheme setup by the Government to improve the network and internet connectivity in schools, colleges and education centres across the UK.
The Government website states that “Connect the classroom is a funded programme to improve internet speed in schools. This is done by upgrading wifi access points and network switches.”
In total, the DfE have set aside £180m for Connect the Classroom funding. Schools across England are eligible for a slice of this pot to upgrade their WiFi connectivity.
Connect the Classroom funding is available for schools to claim until 2025.
Who Qualifies for Connect the Classroom Funding?
In order to unlock the Connect the Classroom funding from the DfE, your school has to meet some pre-set criteria (outlined by the DfE), these are:
- Being located in an Education Investment Area (EIA) and being rated below ‘Good’ in the latest Ofsted report OR Being located in a Priority EIA
- Having an existing WiFI network that falls below the digital and technology standards
Let’s break these down…
Education Investment Areas (EIAs)
Based on the performance across key stage 2 and key stage 4 in 2017 to 2019, and as part of the Government’s levelling up plan, the DfE identified 55 areas of England to be classified as Education Investment Areas. The lowest performing areas were designated as Priority EIAs.
Red areas are Priority EIAs, Yellow areas are Priority EIAs (but not the whole county). All schools in these areas qualify for the Connect the Classroom funding scheme.
Blue are normal EIAs. Schools in these areas have to be rated below ‘Good’ in their most recent Ofsted inspection to qualify for Connect the Classroom Funding.
The Priority EIAs are:
Blackpool, Bradford, Derby, Doncaster, Fenlands and East Cambridgeshire, Halton, Hartlepool, Hastings, Ipswich, Knowsley, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire Coast, Norwich, Nottingham, Oldham, Portsmouth, Rochdale, Salford, Sandwell, Stoke-on-Trent, Tameside, Walsall, West Somerset.
The Education Investment Areas are:
Bedford, Bolton, Bury, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Cornwall, County Durham, Coventry, Darlington, Derbyshire, Dorset, Dudley, East Sussex, Isle of Wight, Kirklees, Leeds, Lincolnshire, Luton, Manchester, Norfolk, North Northamptonshire, North Somerset, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Peterborough, Plymouth, Rotherham, Sefton, Somerset, South Gloucestershire, South Tyneside, St. Helens, Suffolk, Sunderland, Swindon, Wakefield, Wirral.
Digital & Technology Standards
Alongside the EIA requirement, to qualify for the funding, schools must fall below the stringent Digital and Technology standards. These are rigorous requirements that outline the wireless networking and internet connectivity standards to be used in schools. They are:
- Use the latest wireless network standard approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance
The latest WiFi standard is called WiFi 6 (802.11ax). The latest WiFi 6 standard is built to deal with far more devices than its predecessor—built for stadiums, public networks and large campuses and businesses.
WiFi 6 offers improved speed and longevity to your network.By Upgrading your schools WiFi network to WiFi 6 makes it future-proof—protecting your investment into the future).
- Have a fully functional signal from your wireless network throughout the school or college buildings and externally where required
This is arguably one of the most important factors in the DfE’s standards. There’s no point in upgrading your school’s WiFi network if you suffer from blackspot and poor connectivity.
Part of our process to get your school’s WiFi up to the DfE standard (and importantly, quality for the Connect the Classroom funding), is to complete a site survey and heat map—ensuring the important areas of your school are covered.
- Have a solution that can centrally manage the wireless network
The ongoing management of your WiFi network is just as important as the installation. Part of the DfEs requirement is to have a WiFi network that is centrally managed.
Managed WiFi networks are the modern standard, and our network team ensure that any equipment is hooked up to our portal for ongoing management and maintenance—keeping your system up to date and pro-actively monitoring the network to ensure the best experience for your users.
- Install security features to stop unauthorised access
Cyber security is playing an increasingly important part in our lives. Data and network security are no different—and all due care should be taken to ensure your school’s WiFi network is as secure as possible, both for students and staff.
With built-in firewalls and networks configured to your specification (such as segmented networks, isolated clients and more).
How do I Unlock Connect the Classroom Funding for my School?
There is a process to unlock the Connect the Classroom funding, and it goes as follows:
- Ensure your school is eligible - If you haven’t got an email from the DfE, check your eligibility or email.
- Book a site survey - Speak to our team to book a site survey by one of our expert engineers. The survey allows us to put together a proposal to meet the DfE’s strict criteria.
- Send the proposal to the DfE and get feedback - We’ll help you through this process.
- Get your new WiFi system installed - Our expert team will install your school’s new WiFi network.
So that’s Connect the Classroom, the Department for Education’s new initiative for schools to improve their network and WiFi connectivity infrastructure. For more information about upgrading your school’s network, get in touch with our dedicated team today.