Education Bradford has invested £2.5m in a five-year deal with Telewest to supply its 203 schools in the region with high-speed internet access.
The education authority has opted out of the government's broadband consortium, believing that it can get better value for money and a faster connection through extending its current deal with Telewest.
The telco is providing a 10Mbps fibre connection to the schools, replacing its own Frame Relay circuits which ran at 64Kbps, 128Kbps and 2Mbps.
The deal gives schools in the region more bandwidth than suggested by government guidelines on bandwidth in schools, which Education Bradford believes are inadequate.
The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) guidelines recommend a 2Mbps synchronous connection for primary schools and an 8Mbps synchronous connection for secondary schools. The government wants all schools connected to the internet by 2006.
Mark Chambers, ICT curriculum development manager at Education Bradford, told vnunet.com: "Schools are clamouring for bandwidth, and anything that delays lessons and gets in the way of learning is something I want to get rid of. All kids deserve this fast access."
Eighty-five of the 203 schools are already connected. "This is an ongoing project," said Chambers. "Developing and purchasing content is the next step."
The network will enable students to access the internet and email, as well as web-based education resources.
As part of the deal, Websense is providing internet filtering software and Synetrix is offering helpdesk and configuration support.
Chambers admitted that it is too early to gauge whether the provision of high speed internet access is likely to have a positive impact on the effectiveness of learning.
"But we're starting to see an impact because schools can use the latest software and industry learning programmes," he said.
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