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Report Calls for More Broadband and Less Internet Censorship in Schools

Saturday, Jul 13th, 2013 (7:29 am) - Score 763

Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales (United Kingdom), has published the first of two new reports into the standards and impact of ICT (computers, communication and related technology) in Welsh primary and secondary schools. In short, broadband needs to be better and overzealous web blocking causes problems.

The inspectorate found that standards in ICT were “good or excellent” in half of the primary schools visited and that standards are generally better in the Foundation Phase than in key stage 2. In addition ICT was found to deliver a “positive impact on standards of literacy” in the majority of Schools and in a few cases it even produced “significant” improvements.

Ann Keane, Estyn, said:

In today’s society good ICT skills are more important than ever before. Children and teachers are motivated and excited to be teaching and learning these vital skills. We have seen some excellent examples of schools using innovative ways to develop children’s ICT skills.

We know that this is having a positive impact on children’s literacy and numeracy skills – which we all know are among the main challenges facing education in Wales today. We also know that ICT can help to engage boys who are reluctant to read and write to help them to improve their reading and writing skills.

But we also know that, despite some positive progress, there is still work to be done.”

The report also identified a number of areas for improvement, which included a couple of internet content and access related recommendations that might surprise some people (especially certain politicians and local council officials).

In particular it called on the Welsh Government to “provide adequate broadband connectivity for all schools in Wales” because “around a half” of the schools surveyed said that the “poor quality of the connection hinders their ICT work“.

Happily work has now begun on the £425m state-aid supported Superfast Cymru project (here), which was one of the first Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) linked schemes to receive approval and eventually aims to make internet download speeds of up to 80Mbps available to 96% of Welsh premises by the end of 2015.

On top of this the report also claimed that the level of “filtering and blocking of internet sites” (censorship) by local authorities “hinders classwork unnecessarily in the majority of schools“. It’s known that councils and related public authority networks can impose some extremely strict blocks on internet content, which also tends to catch a mass of legitimate sites and educational content. Sadly the report doesn’t offer much detail on this aspect.

Separately Estyn also wants to see “more portable technologies in schools such as tablet computers and portable phones“, the latter of which might surprise some people as Smartphones are often still considered more of a distraction than a benefit. But apparently this would help more able pupils “to reach their potential“.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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