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All you need to know about the Connect the Classroom programme

02/10/23 Wavenet
School Classrrom with children working on devices connected to WiFi

In the classroom, technology is a double-edged sword. While it can never replace teaching, it can certainly enhance it. But on the other hand, if it isn’t reliable, it can be more of a hindrance than a help – causing everything from a minor distraction to the disruption of an entire lesson.

Often, when considering these issues, we picture problems with the software we’re using, or the hardware in front of us – for example, a presentation that’s so big it freezes on screen, or a paper-chewing printer that seems to have a mind of its own.

But a less obvious cause of problems with classroom technology is often located outside of the classroom – namely, internet connectivity itself. And as the internet becomes increasingly important to schools – both for learning and the running of the organisation – unreliable connectivity can have a real impact.

A government scheme is looking to help address this, with funding available to schools to improve their wi-fi. It’s called ‘Connect the Classroom’ and this blog explains all you need to know.

What’s on offer?

In a nutshell, the Connect the Classroom programme offers funding to upgrade your school’s wifi to the latest wireless internet technology, wifi 6. As you can imagine, this is an improvement on older wifi technology, rather like 5G mobile phone service improved on 4G, which improved on 3G. The benefits of wifi 6 include:

  • It’s faster: wifi 5, for example, offers a maximum speed of 3.5 gigabits per second (Gbps). Wifi 6, on the other hand, offers more than double the speed with a maximum of 9.6 Gbps.

  • It’s more reliable: even when there’s a lot of traffic on your network, wifi 6 remains high speed, as it’s better at handling ‘congestion’ than wifi 5.

  • It’s more secure: wifi 6 supports the newest security protocol, Wi-FI Protected Access 3 (WPA3). This provides stronger security, with improved user authentication and data encryption.

From ensuring your lesson doesn’t get stalled by slow speeds, to minimising the chance of security breaches that put you and your students’ data at risk, wifi 6 makes a lot of sense for your school.

Is my school eligible?

Before you read on, it’s important to know that right now, only certain schools are eligible for funding – those in ‘Priority Education Investment Areas’.

Areas eligible for the Connect the Classroom funding

Blackpool, Bradford, Derby , Doncaster, Fenlands & East Cambridgeshire, Halton, Hartlepool, Hastings, Ipswich, Knowsley, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire Coast, Norwich, Nottingham, Oldham, Portsmouth, Rochdale, Salford, Sandwell, Stoke on Trent, Tameside, Walsall and West Somerset.


If your school does not fall into one of these areas, it’s worth noting that the current programme is a pilot, meaning that, as with similar government initiatives, it may in the future be expanded to include more schools, including yours. We’re keeping a close eye on this, so follow us on LinkedIn for updates as they happen.

If your school is in one of the areas above, then read on for more information.

What’s the background to this programme?

In March 2022, the government published its Opportunity for all’ whitepaper, setting out its commitment to creating ‘an environment where schools can use technology to support innovation and the spread of evidence-based practice’.

As part of those plans, the Connect the Classroom programme will see £150m made available to schools to improve their wifi, as the former Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi outlined at Bett 2022.

In August 2023 the DfE have sent letters to all eligible schools confirming that they qualify for funding and how much their school is eligible to claim.

The programme is also part of a wider government initiative to improve internet connectivity across the country. There’s more on that below.

What’s involved in applying?

Applying for funding is a straightforward process, and the upgrade itself can take as little as a few days. Here’s a breakdown of how it typically works:

  • If you have received a letter from the DfE confirming that your school is eligible and how much your school can claim then you are eligible and ready to apply for funding. You’ll next need a few technical details about your network, such as how many wireless access points you require. As such, the programme advises you to engage an ICT supplier that can help with this assessment – we can help with this.

  • Next, the supplier will assess your network and complete the official funding quotation forms. And once you have chosen your supplier, you’ll need to follow the instructions provided with the quotation forms on how to email them to the funding team.

  • The funding team will then review the application and either issue a letter to confirm it will fund the upgrade, or if necessary, will ask for clarification on any issues to progress the application.

  • Once approved, you’ll then be able to proceed with the upgrade to benefit from faster, more reliable and more secure wifi.

Why choose Wavenet?

With the announcement of the Connect the Classroom programme has come a surge of IT suppliers jostling for your business. Not all of them specialise in the education sector, which given the unique needs of your school, is an important consideration. Wavenet, however, does specialise in the education sector, as follows:

  • Through our long-running partnership with LGfL, we provide internet connectivity for all schools in London and beyond. This means we serve more than 3,500 schools and more than one million users in the capital – and looking outside of London, we serve a further one million users in an education environment. Ensuring good internet connectivity for two million internet users in the education sector has given us a real understanding of the unique needs of this sector.

  • For us, the internet is a fantastic resource for learning, but it also carries particular risks for young people. As a result, we’re an active partner-member of the Internet Watch Foundation, and through LGfL we run a unique web filtering service that protects students from malicious online content,  which processes billions of online interactions every day. As you can guess, being an IT company, we love technology, but we’re not blind to its drawbacks – and we hope this pragmatic approach helps our school clients.

  • We develop custom IT services for schools – and we can only do this by knowing schools inside out. For example, in the wake of the pandemic, we found many schools were struggling to integrate their new remote teaching platforms with their school management information systems. As a result, our in-house developers created a tool to synchronise the systems, saving school staff time and reducing the risk of keying errors. 

  • Also in relation to the pandemic, we were one of the first of only a handful of IT suppliers to become accredited by the government in the two main remote teaching platforms – Microsoft and Google. We also recognised that schools became overwhelmed with online information about the government funding programme for remote teaching platforms, and as such, put together a comprehensive guide to the process. 

  • Our extensive list of gold and platinum vendor accreditations (some from competing vendors) is not only a testament to our knowledge, but also to our objective approach and why we never promote one particular product – we only want to find the right product or service for our clients. Also, we make a point of never overselling – we believe this does not make for good professional relationships in the long term. 

  • We know many schools do not have dedicated or extensive IT teams and so we strive to avoid technical jargon while explaining what we’re doing at every step of the way. We’ve helped, for example, many schools reduce unnecessary costs by explaining that less is more when it comes wireless access points – too many can in fact ‘confuse’ devices and affect performance. It’s not often you find an IT supplier that actively avoids selling equipment like this!

  • Similarly, we take the view that teachers want to teach, not become IT specialists. We run our school IT support services with this in mind, and we always encourage our school clients, where possible, to consider booking IT installations and upgrades for school holidays, so there’s minimal disruption to students and lessons. In every respect, technology should run in the background of a school and it certainly should not call the shots!

One last question: our school would benefit from lots of upgrades or even new technology, so why wifi?

Having worked with schools for more than 30 years, we know only too well that every school has a never-ending ‘shopping list’ for technology. During the pandemic, for instance, we saw a huge rise in demand for laptops and tablets for students, and there’s rarely a week that passes where we don’t have a conversation with a school client about moving school management software to the cloud or upgrading audio-visual equipment in classrooms. In fact, these conversations have been happening since before Covid-19, and one common theme to all of this is connectivity: being able to access the internet, including services in the cloud, in a way that’s fast, reliable and secure.

It stands to reason, then, that improving connectivity can improve your experience of any connected device in and around your school. We consider this to be rather like road travel: you can drive the most powerful, advanced car, but if the road you’re on is narrow and full of potholes, then your journey from A to B isn’t going to go smoothly.

The Connect the Classroom programme also ties in with this, through wider government initiatives to improve internet infrastructure around the country, including work to bring gigabit broadband to rural schools. Using our analogy, you could say that improving both the main trunk roads (ie. the gigabit scheme) and the roads branching off them (ie. the wifi) is the best and only way to really improve connectivity.

Finally, the pandemic has, perhaps irreversibly, changed technology habits for everyone, including your school students and staff. You may now have more students using wireless school devices and more staff working flexibly, across the school campus. This all hinges on fast, reliable and secure internet connectivity – so the Connect the Classroom programme is a positive step in helping your school with the ever-growing demands on your its network.

Hopefully, we’ve covered here the main points you need to know about the Connect the Classroom programme, but for more advice tailored to your school, call us on 0333 234 0011, email contact@wavenetuk.com or use the form at the top of this page to have us contact you in regards to the Connect the Classroom programme.


WiFi, Education

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