£150 million to upgrade school WiFi connections – Friday 25 March 2022

This week I highlight the announcement of a £150 million fund to update schools WiFi connections, a trial to boost school attendance in disadvantaged areas with mentors and publication of the national absence figures for 2020/21.

£150 million to upgrade school WiFi connections
This week the Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced that every school in England will have access to high speed internet by 2025. A £150 million fund to support schools most in need to upgrade their WiFi connections will be made available. The DfE also published a set of technology standards aimed at supporting schools in understanding which technologies they should have in place to best support effective teaching and achieve safer, more cost-efficient practices. The standards refer specifically to broadband and in-school connectivity.

£5 million trial to mentor persistently absent pupils
Pupils who are persistently absent will be assigned mentors under a new £5 million trial to boost school attendance in disadvantaged areas. The DfE has published a tender notice for an organisation to recruit and train mentors “to provide targeted one-to-one support” to youngsters and their families to “overcome attendance barriers”.

The successful bidder will initially work for one year in one of the previously identified Education Improvement Areas, supporting between 500 and 1,000 pupils. But the contract will include the option to “scale up to multiple areas nationally and support larger volumes of pupils in years two and three”.

The latest government statistics show an overall absence rate of 4.6% and 12.1% of pupils persistently absent in 2020/21. Pupils missed 328 million in-person school days and 270 million were because of Covid. This represents a five-fold increase in days missed compared with 2018/19, the last normal year before the pandemic.