Is poor broadband holding back UK schools? header image

Published: 1st Oct 2014

As education tools go, you can't get much better than the internet. With vast amounts of information accessible at just a few clicks of a button, the potential of the web for academic purposes is limitless. 

However, could the varying levels of internet access across the UK be creating a digital divide between those children that go to a school with a good level of connectivity and those that don't?

The answer is yes, according to the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA). In a study, it found 42 per cent of primary schools consider themselves 'under-resourced' when it comes to broadband, while 31 per cent of secondary schools said the same.

Close to two-thirds (65 per cent) of primary schools cited poor Wi-Fi provision as a major problem, while the figure was 54 per cent for secondary schools.

BESA director Caroline Wright stated: "British teachers are world-leaders in the use of educational-technology in the classroom so it is of great concern that pupils are being denied access to innovative and effective digital learning because of poor internet connectivity in more than half of the UK’s schools.

"In today’s digital society, classroom connectivity to an online world of knowledge and resources should be a right for every student."

The organisation's research found the increased use of technology and devices such as tablets in schools will likely mean new training is needed for teachers, with 53 per cent of primary schools saying they think this will be required by 2016.

While there are concerns about connectivity, the BESA welcomed the fact computer use in schools appears to be increasing. It found an extra 50,000 computers are set to be added to primary schools and 92,000 to secondary schools in the next few years.

As well as having access to reliable broadband at school, it is important for children to be able to make the most of the web at home. Earlier this year, the BBC reported on a study from Mind the Gap, which warned those youngsters who cannot get online at home run the risk of falling behind their fellow pupils.