Pupils in England are at risk of missing out because their schools do not have good enough WiFi, recent figures have suggested.

Schools need fully accessible WiFi in order to fully embrace the digital learning encouraged by the government throughout a range of subjects, argues Valerie Thompson of the E-Learning Foundation. But only a quarter of schools achieve this according to the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa).

The data comes from surveys of a representative panel of some 600 state schools across England, carried out by market research company C3 Education for Besa.

Of 250 secondary schools, about 22% said they had wi-fi in most or all classrooms, 39% had it in some classrooms, leaving 39% with wi-fi in only a few or no classrooms.

Of 350 primary schools about 28% had wi-fi in most or all classrooms, 22% had it in some classrooms, leaving half of all schools with wi-fi in only a few or no classrooms.

WiFi is ‘essential’

Valerie Thompson argues that good wireless networks are essential if schools are to use digital technology to its full potential within education.

She says that WiFi technology gives pupils the opportunity to learn throughout lessons, and outside of class time learning.
Government action

Steps have already been taken by the government to update the teaching of computing in schools, with the scrapping the old IT curriculum and including computer science as a core subject at secondary level.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has said he wants children to learn basic computer code in primary school and to be able to create basic animations and simple websites by the age of 11.

Many schools are already encouraging pupils to bring their own devices, including smartphones and tablets to school. Whilst others have decided to invested in devices for each pupil.

The future of WiFi in schools

Devices, whether they be ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) or school funded are being widely used to download assignments, carry out research and email questions of teachers. Some pupils are even asking experts from outside school for assistance.

Most exam boards already use online technology to mark and transfer exam papers. In the future, it’s expected that the exams themselves will be taken online, and may even be marked in real-time.