To be ready for the jobs of tomorrow, school students must be digitally literate today; it is a core skill for the emerging workforce that relies on school environments having digital infrastructure with adequate bandwidth and wireless access to learn, collaborate, communicate, and provide administrative support.
While the increased use of technology in schools has been a major benefit to learning outcomes, it has been constrained by inequity in access. In some rural and remote schools, poor network performance has forced schools to choose between students using the internet for schoolwork or staff performing mandatory administrative work. Video streaming applications that support learning modules have been permanently blocked and NAPLAN tests have been unable to be completed online.
For Upper Coopers Creek Public School, a satellite school in Northern NSW, poor network performance meant it was common for students to experience 15-minute wait times to log in to a computer and it was difficult to complete administrative work.
Further south at Cabbage Tree Island Public School near Ballina, the existing network had not been upgraded to support the rollout of laptops via the 2020 COVID access program; when students connected their laptops to the internet, the network was so overloaded that online work had to be completely abandoned.
To improve connectivity, the Department of Education rolled out multiple programs across NSW to ensure equitable and ubiquitous access to the digital classroom and other, IT-enabled learning initiatives. Between 2017 and 2022 greater network capacity and digital infrastructure capability were delivered by:
- increasing bandwidths to 5 Mbps per student at 2,200 schools – a project which was delivered three years ahead of schedule
- upgrading Wi-Fi networks in rural schools
- installing direct internet services in mainland schools
- replacing geostationary satellite service at 12 very remote schools with optical fibre or microwave backhaul services
- installing firewalls to improve online safety
The result is that students and teachers now utilise standardised, sustainable, and scalable networks to securely access internet-based digital content at rates that are 2,400% fast than three years ago. The networks are now fit for purpose, cost effective, and support the Department’s digital strategy for teaching and learning.
“Much gratitude here today! The difference is incredible. It is going to have such a positive impact on student learning. Thank you so much.” Melissa Date, Former Principal | Macdonald Valley PS
As part of the NSW Connectivity Strategy the NSW Telco Authority works collaboratively to improve digital connectivity across all of Government. In this instance, the large investment Telstra made into their NSW core network to deliver the bandwidth to NSW schools will have wider benefits for the community. The extra capacity is already being leveraged by NSW Health and Police agencies. A further benefit is the creation of a 10 Gbps Telstra Internet Direct service, now available to other NSW customers.