High speed broadband in rural schools is a social justice issue, says the Church of England

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The Church of England has welcomed government plans to roll out gigabit speed broadband to over 100 rural schools.

The £3 million pilot programme will boost broadband connections at primary schools across the English countryside over the next few months, starting with those in hardest to reach areas. 

The faster internet speeds will make it possible for whole classes to surf the internet together as part of their lessons. 

Schools will also be able to access online training and learning tools more easily, while cloud services will help more staff to go paperless.

Digital minister Margot James said: 'As well as making a dramatic difference for students in the classroom, by using the schools as broadband hubs we are also making ultrafast broadband available to thousands of rural homes and businesses across the country more quickly.' 

Mary See, headteacher at Cheselbourne Village School, Dorset said that super-fast broadband had revolutionised teaching for both the staff and children.

'The much faster and reliable access to the web has allowed staff to work more efficiently, while the children, although still geographically remote, are no longer technologically isolated and will have the same opportunities as their urban peers in preparing for a more technological future,' she said. 

The scheme has been welcomed by the Church of England's chief education officer, Nigel Genders, who said it was a social justice issues for children living in rural areas. 

The Church of England is a major provider of education, operating around 4,700 schools, over half of which are situated in rural areas.

'This pilot is very welcome, and we hope it paves the way for more widespread improvements to broadband in rural schools,' he said.

'Good connectivity is no longer just a 'nice to have' for schools as learning technology becomes a vital tool to deliver the curriculum, so this is a social justice issue for children in rural areas.

'The Church of England is a major provider of rural schools, and has worked with the Government through its digital accord to help combat poor connectivity, as well as building training and peer support networks through its Foundation for Education Leadership to help rural communities flourish.'