Infrastructure > Cloud

LGfL raises bandwidth bar for schools with series of new initiatives

David Bicknell Published 25 April 2017

2020 pledge also includes new initiatives around procurement for schools, safety, digital and cloud adoption, savings and support


London Grid for Learning (LGfL) chief executive John Jackson has signalled an array of new services for the community of schools and local authorities it serves, including raising the bandwidth bar to deliver 100 megabits per second.

The organisation held its annual conference in London yesterday, attracting over 600 registrations to what Jackson called “one of the biggest educational conferences in the UK today.”

Promising to “inspire you in terms of what teaching and learning can do with digital technology”, Jackson said LGfL now serves over a million children, 275,000 teachers, and 94% of London schools, as well as schools outside London in Liverpool and Sandwell.

“We're not just serving education in London but we’re now increasingly servicing education nationally and that opens up so many opportunities for us,” he told the conference.

“What’s also interesting about what we do is increasingly we are joined up across the sectors so we are looking to expand our charitable objects to support health and community development and that provides us with a unique opportunity to connect health, social care and support for children.

“Because we are such a large community, we can generate incredible economies of scale. We can make things better and cheaper for you because we buy at scale. And we can do this because suppliers like to work with us because it’s cheaper for them.”

Jackson said that because of LGfL’s buying scale, over £300m has been saved in London schools since its inception of LGfL. A network upgrade has saved schools £13.5m, he said, while a pupil premium checker for schools has also identified £7m in potential savings for schools that it is claimed pays for broadband for every London school.

Looking towards the future, Jackson said, “There is a whole new set of platforms coming out from Google, from Microsoft from loads of other people that promise a very different way of delivering teaching and learning in London and the UK as a whole. There is lots going on with mobile computing, and a lot more processing power going into devices.

“There is just a huge opportunity there for the next generation of technology to support those innovations in teaching and learning. “ But he said, “Schools are under huge huge pressure – curriculum change, assessment changes, funding cuts, additional burdens, and some technology changes.”

To help, Jackson said LGfL had created a 2020 ‘pledge’ for the next five years which is going to be the direction of travel for the organisation.

“We want to accelerate the next generation of digital technology,” he said. “We want to accelerate that technology at an affordable price. And we want to put together a great package of support for schools because there is no point accelerating platforms and just making it cheap if you just haven’t got any support to make it happen.”

Jackson signalled a programme called Freedom First to offer schools more buying flexibility. “We want to put you in charge and drive the agenda for technology in London and nationally. We want to give you the flexibility to put in place the services that you want alongside the services LGfL provide.

“We will provide you with different options and packaging to make that happen. So no longer going forward will you just have a simple ‘gym membership’. We are going to enable you to package services in ways that make sense to you,” he told delegates.

A second initiative Jackson identified is SmartBuy.

“One of the things that we can do more of is help you get things cheaper,"he said. "You’re going to see from LGfL a significant expansion in our procurement activities and market interventions. Because when we go to market we buy at scale. We get things cheaper and we can create partnerships that make sense. But not only that, we can create relationships and value that otherwise wouldn’t be just got from buying a PC.  What we don’t want to do is just buy something and say, ‘Here it is. It’s all cheaper.’  What we’d like to do with partners like Google and Microsoft and others is say, ‘Here’s the tech and here’s the support. Put the two together and let’s make big change happen.’"

Jackson also discussed the idea of the SuperCloud. “What is a SuperCloud? he asked. “A SuperCloud is a cloud that links multiple clouds together securely. I believe fundamentally that no single cloud can support schools’ needs.  We want to bring to schools a SuperCloud for education which will bring those platforms to you better and cheaper than would otherwise be the case.”

Jacksons made a further pledge that he called ‘Let’s Get Digital.’

“What we want to do is realise the potential of technology because we know it isn’t just a technical challenge, it’s a leadership challenge, a behaviours challenge, and a business process change challenge.

"We want to put a mechanism in place to support schools, to do that. And that support could be in the form of boot camps, specialist training, accreditations, leadership centres, resources, teacher training. We are going to put that in place with our partners and suppliers. Let’s Get Digital will help schools move to cloud and we’ll work with partners to deliver that.”

To keep children safe online, Jackson also promised that LGfL will be purchasing on behalf of London, a proactive alerting system.

He also promised greater bandwidth.

“Whatever we do in terms of a digital platform, a move to cloud, putting in Wi-Fi etc, I guarantee that bandwidth will be going up. Because we’re a fibre based network, because we’ve designed our own network, because we’re partners with Virgin Media, we’re in a position to do what very few others can do in the world. We can take the bandwidth up. LGFL at no additional cost to schools, is going to raise the bar for connectivity to a minimum of 100 megabits per second.

"LGFL at no additional cost to schools, is going to raise the bar for connectivity for TRUSTnet to a minimum of 100 meg. We will create the fastest, the most high speed infastrustructure for teaching and learning, I believe, in the world. That will drive a fundamental change in what you want to do and how you want to do it.”

Jackson also looked forward to putting air quality monitoring sensors into schools in London which could lead to creating, potentially, one of the world’s biggest air quality management systems.

He also said LGfL wanted to work with a small number of schools to deliver “a whole new generation of connectivity into schools” through a programme he called Connected Capital, which would join up networks, mobile, WiFi and infrastructure to create “an entirely different learning experience.”

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