The topic of school broadband renewal has been regularly reported on, with articles published on the BBC, TES and Schoolsweek, regarding the tactics employed by some broadband providers to ‘encourage’ schools to renew their broadband package. To support schools in asking the right questions we’ve put together some considerations to help you make a more informed decision should your broadband connection be up for renewal.
By following our guide you can be sure to:
- Get more for your money
- Get a better service
- Get a connection that meets yours (rather than the sales executive’s) needs
- You first need to understand your existing broadband data usage. Your existing provider should be able to tell you this, but if not, you can install network monitoring software to understand your current usage. If you are going to install monitoring software, it needs to be in place for at least two weeks in order to provide information on actual use over a period of time.
- Using the information provided by your existing provider or from the network monitoring software you can understand how much of your current allowance is actually being used. Quite often we see that schools are either not using their full allowance or that there are technical issues on the network that lower performance, and therefore, reduce the ability to go any quicker.
- Forecast your potential future need based on the number of devices on the network, the types of cloud technologies/systems used, and any changes in the number of users. If any of these will increase then it is likely that your internet capacity will need to increase.
- Check whether you need any more IP addresses. This information should be provided by your in-school technician or external support company. If you plan to buy more devices you may need a larger IP range and could also you to need to reconfigure the network.
- Identify whether you need any other options such as filtering. Schools need to demonstrate that suitable filtering is in place and that children are safe from online terrorist and extremist materials. Ensure the approach to filtering and internet monitoring follows the guidance issued in ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education Draft Statutory Guidance. Further information can be found here.
- Document your requirements and issue these to a minimum of three providers, such as, BT, RM, Schools Broadband, Daisy, or one of the grids for learning. If you are a small school, also ask for options regarding connection types as in some cases a FTTC connection will be cheaper and better than a fibre connection.
- If you are going to change supplier check how they will manage migration and support.
- Do not sign up to a contract longer than 3 years. You would rarely sign up to a contract at home for more than 18 months, and with commercial connectivity it’s 3 years.
- Unless there is a long lead time on installing a new connection do not sign up to a new contract until there are only 6 months remaining on your existing contract.
When changing or upgrading broadband there’s a lot to think about. Many of the considerations raised within the Top Tips require input from your existing provider, your ICT support and your school leadership. It’s really important that you have a clear understanding of how your ICT systems may grow and change before your sign up to a new contract that could cost many tens of thousands of pounds. To understand how your systems may grow and change a ICT Health Check is advisable. Not only will this type of review consider the immediate decisions, such as broadband, but will also help you plan your strategy for years ahead, align costs with planned upgrades and inform the support and training needed for teachers. An example Health Check and Plan is provided at the bottom of this page.
Using the example report, action plan and timeline plan enables schools to make informed decisions; taking into consideration all teaching and learning, technical, operational, and strategic considerations.