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'Our children deserve better' - Norfolk snubbed by school broadband improvement trial

The government is running a pilot scheme to improve internet connectivity in rural primary schools - but no Norfolk schools were selected for the pilot. 
Picture: ARCHANT

The government is running a pilot scheme to improve internet connectivity in rural primary schools - but no Norfolk schools were selected for the pilot. Picture: ARCHANT

East Anglia has been snubbed by a government pilot scheme to improve broadband speeds in rural primary schools.

Jonathan Rice, Educate Norfolk primary chairman. Picture: ARCHANTJonathan Rice, Educate Norfolk primary chairman. Picture: ARCHANT

More than 100 rural primary schools in England were chosen for the £3m pilot programme, which aims to help them get broadband connections capable of speeds of one gigabit (1,000 Mbps).

But none in Norfolk and Suffolk made the cut, with the closest schools selected in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is leading the project with the Department for Education, said the pilot had selected schools in “poorly connected areas” and that schools in Norfolk and Suffolk would have an “equal chance” to get funding once the full £200m programme was rolled out nationwide.

Jonathan Rice, primary chairman of Educate Norfolk, said Norfolk’s omittance from the pilot scheme was “disappointing”.

Sarah Mules, headteacher at East Ruston and Stalham Infant Schools and Martham Academy. Picture: Right For SuccessSarah Mules, headteacher at East Ruston and Stalham Infant Schools and Martham Academy. Picture: Right For Success

“We have dozens of small rural schools in our county which are crying out for decent internet services and I would expect Norfolk to be at the front of the queue for a scheme like this. Children in our rural schools should not be disadvantaged in this way - they deserve better,” he said.

Sarah Mules, headteacher at Stalham and East Ruston Infant Schools and Martham Academy, said unreliable broadband was “frustrating” for both teachers and pupils.

She said: “At Martham, we recently updated our broadband and speeds now work well for the technology we use.

“At East Ruston we have a fibre connection, however the wireless connection is very slow which causes difficulties with the laptops and devices the children use.

“With technology becoming more and more integral to the curriculum, speed and reliability of connectivity is a constant challenge.

“Fibre broadband in rural areas rarely delivers the speeds that are promised which is a constant frustration for teachers and pupils.”

Of the pilot scheme, education secretary Damian Hinds said: “In our inter-connected world, a fast, reliable internet connection has never been more important.

“I don’t want schools in villages and rural areas to be left in the slow lane when it comes to broadband, and the funding announced today will benefit the schools that are most in need.”

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