As a school leader, how you manage your digital environment will influence how well you deliver the curriculum.

This guidance explains how your school’s networking equipment works with your broadband. It highlights how weaknesses such as outdated equipment, or software can impact on network performance.

To support your school evaluation and development

School leaders should be able to show how they will use and manage digital technology to meet the requirements of their school and learners. They should comply with their statutory obligations for cyber security and data management. This is especially important in view of the Digital Competence Framework and a more digitally focused new curriculum.

You should involve both teaching and technical staff in your planning process. This can help identify the right solutions for your school, and keep focus on the user.

Middle schools and schools located on multiple sites should consider all users’ needs in their planning. For example, security settings might need to consider the needs of both primary and secondary learners.

To help you make the most from your investment in technology and be more informed about Service Level Agreements

As a school leader, you need to get the most from your technology investment decisions. Understanding what is included within your Service Level Agreements or contracts can help you get the most out of your provider.

Most schools have SLAs in place with their local authorities. If you are uncertain what your SLA covers, ask your local authority to explain.

Ensure that you understand your SLAs and contracts and what your provider manages as part of their service to you. You should challenge them if you feel they are not providing a service which you believe is included or if performance is not meeting targets in the SLA.

You should avoid situations where you might be paying again for something which you already receive as part of your SLA.

Local authorities are in the best position to provide your digital services due to the way your school is linked up with them. They also provide some statutory functions you need (for example: secure school data exchange).

If your local authority cannot provide a digital service you need, they should be able to suggest an alternative solution. By informing them of your plans, they can tell you what actions are needed to address your needs.

Your school broadband performance can be affected by many factors. It is important to understand what you, or your service provider, can do to get the best performance possible.

Scheduling usage

Simultaneous classes using data rich tools and resources can impact on your broadband’s performance.

If you find that your service is suffering slowdown or other problems, then you should first speak with your service provider. If no other solution is available, scheduling usage of digital resources in classes can help to reduce load on your network and may be an appropriate solution.

Managing downloads and patches

A Mobile Device Management (MDM) and caching solution can help to manage device security and schedule how and when updates occur.

Devices often update software and security settings automatically. If this happens during teaching hours, your broadband can become slow and unresponsive. Your service provider if can schedule updates and maintenance to reduce the load on your network when you need it the most.

Regular network infrastructure assessment

Conducting a regular check of your network yourself, or through your service provider, will help to identify any issues that may affect your service. An annual check can contribute to your school’s strategic planning process.

Your broadband type

Schools should use a symmetrical uncontended fibre-optic broadband service wherever possible. This service provides the same download and upload speeds, and means you do not share the connection with others. There are other broadband services available (for example: Fibre-to-the-Premises) but unless you have low learner numbers (under 50) or the symmetrical uncontended service is not available in your area, these are unsuitable for school use due to their limited capability.

Public Sector Broadband Aggregation (PSBA)

PSBA is designed to deliver reliable, unlimited, high speed internet to large organisations. It is used by public services across the whole of Wales, including nearly all schools.

PSBA includes value-added services, such as security controls. Schools will need to fund and maintain those services if they choose another broadband provider.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education agreed in November 2016 that educational services in Wales will use the PSBA network as their default delivery platform. Nearly all maintained schools in Wales are part of the PSBA network, via their internet connection through local authorities.

Local authority engagement

Regular engagement with your local authority can help you understand how your network is performing. Involving them in your strategic planning means they can inform you of potential network issues that you may need to address. They are also best placed to help you on the above, and anything else that might be needed, due to the unique way your network links up with theirs.

Before you buy any devices, you should speak with your service provider and local authority to check the new devices are compatible with your network, especially from a security and safeguarding perspective. You should also check that they can be managed and maintained appropriately.

Have a strategy

You should have a vision or strategy in place for how technology will help with the delivery of the curriculum before you consider any purchase. This should include a plan and budget to refresh your school’s technology regularly, including network equipment.

Local authority engagement

It is always best practice to engage with your local authority before buying new technology. They can help you to buy technology through procurement frameworks designed for education. Avoid buying technology from mainstream stores, as they are unlikely to offer you the type of services and support (such as extended warranty) schools need.

Conduct an impact assessment

Carry out an impact assessment to understand how your new devices will affect your network. Do this before you buy any new devices to see if your network can cope with their introduction. When buying any new device you should consider how it accesses any existing learning platforms or systems you currently use. You may need to update your network before introducing additional devices.

Understand your wireless network

Review what technology your wireless network can and cannot support with your service provider to ensure you make the most of any devices you purchase.

Ensure that the Wireless Access Points (APs) are:

  • compatible with the technology you intend to buy
  • correctly positioned in areas that use wireless the most
  • updated with the latest software
  • not hindered by any obstruction to the wireless signal (for example: thick walls, steel structures)

Maintain an IT asset register

This can help you to determine possible replacement dates and costs to aid budgeting. An up to date asset register may be a requirement of your school insurance policies.

Have charging stations or trolleys

Charging stations or trolleys allow many devices to charge at the same time. Use them outside core hours to ensure devices are fully charged when needed. They also help reduce health and safety risks from overloaded plugs.

Use existing devices more effectively

Reconfiguring old devices to perform the tasks you want new devices to deliver can save you money. As many digital education services are cloud based, older devices with up to date web browsers may allow you to access the tools and resources you need, without additional outlay.

Use Hwb

Hwb can be used on many older and existing devices so long as the web browsers on them are compatible. As the range of digital tools and resources in Hwb are free, you may find that you can make savings from not having to buy newer devices or software.

Consider leasing

Leasing devices might provide an alternative to buying, particularly as a way to refresh your devices on a regular cycle. However, be mindful that the supplier does not lock you into contract renewals.

You should also have a plan around how you could exit at the end of an initial lease period.

Some local authorities have arrangements for leasing. Schools should check with their local authority about leasing agreements and procurement before entering into agreements.

Anti Virus

Ensure that all of your network attached devices are covered by an up to date anti-virus solution. Any sort of Malware or Trojan can have an impact on your overall network performance.

Complying with your role as a data controller

When you buy any new technology, the migration of and disposal of data must be fully considered. The migration of data is (often) the large scale transfer of data, some of which might be personal and sensitive, between devices or different software. Further advice and guidance on data protection regulations and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) can be found on the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) website.

Before disposing of computer equipment, you are responsible for erasing the data from the hard disk. This is in compliance with data protection regulations, including General Data Protection Regulation.

Note that merely “deleting” files will not physically remove data. The data can be restored using commercially available products.

Any software products also need to be removed from the equipment that you have licences for. Remove any documentation/ stickers from the equipment showing personal details/ software licence codes.

Please seek advice from your local authority (or other relevant service provider).

We have developed a set of recommended web filtering standards for all local authorities and schools to follow. Further information is available on the web filtering standards page.

If you are unable to access particular web sites or use particular web applications, due to your web filtering settings, please speak to your local authority or other service provider.

BYOD allows users to use their own personal devices (for example: tablets, laptops, smartphones) on the school network. BYOD can be provided for all school users or for a particular group (for example: sixth form). It is not the same as a 1:1 policy where you might provide a school owned device to a learner, even if you allow them to take that device home overnight.

A BYOD policy can lead to a significant increase in network usage, particularly wireless usage, and this can affect all users, including administrative staff in the school.

Before introducing BYOD, you should:

  • have a strategy for implementing BYOD and how it will help you to deliver digital teaching and learning. Your decision should not be based on an assumption that BYOD will save you money. There can be considerable upfront costs, and there should be no expectation of savings in the longer term.
  • consider what extra cyber security measures are needed across your network. Open guest wireless channels are not considered secure enough for protecting your learners and their data.
  • discuss it with your local authority to understand whether your current network can support BYOD. If not, they can tell you what improvements and investments will be needed.
  • be aware of the need to consider various criteria including (but not limited to) compliance and safeguarding, the full cost and practicality of implementing BYOD, the cost of insurance and managing an acceptable use policy, the capacity of your local authority to support a full BYOD policy for your school.