Parents have their say: Irish children being held back by poor school broadband

High-speed broadband access is becoming increasingly important for children's learning. From interactive whiteboards to e-books, educators are consistently incorporating the internet into school education. But as Ireland continues to struggle with broadband availability and access, we wanted to find out if Irish schoolchildren are benefitting from digital teaching practices, or if a lack of broadband is holding them back.

We carried out a survey, in conjunction with Censuswide, which found that 46% of Irish children are being held back in their educational achievement due to poor internet at school, according to parents. The online research surveyed parents of primary and secondary school children from a group of 1,001 adults.

We found that almost half (48%) of children use laptops or tablets for some or all of their classes, but one-in-four parents (26%) believe their child's school isn't doing enough to encourage learning via internet-connected educational resources. Currently, 16% of the typical child's homework relies on the internet. On average, parents spent 213 per child on internet-connected devices and tools intended for schoolwork this year.

Our survey also revealed that two-thirds of parents (67%) believe the internet supports children's learning and many consider it a factor in their choice of schools. Some 34% of parents would consider moving their child to a school with better internet availability if their current one didn't have satisfactory broadband access or speeds.

There are very positive signs that soon, all Irish schoolchildren will have access to high-speed broadband at school. Under the Schools 100Mbps project, the Government rolled out 100Mbps broadband to all 780+ post-primary schools in Ireland. Meanwhile, earlier this year, the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., launched the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 Action Plan 2017, which includes a program to enhance high-speed broadband connectivity in primary schools.

Paul Connell, CEO, Pure Telecom, said: Access to internet-connected digital tools and resources is vital for all children living in modern society, so it is concerning that so many parents believe their child's educational achievement is being stunted by poor broadband speeds and access in school. Not surprisingly, our research showed that the majority of those parents are living in areas outside of Dublin.

It is great to see the Government investing in a digital strategy for schools including technologies such as interactive screens and cloud-based learning tools. The availability of high-speed broadband in all not just secondary schools across Ireland will be crucial to its success.

Broadband access is a basic need for all Irish citizens, no matter where they live. But at the moment, the infrastructure isn't in place to deliver broadband to everyone. We have agreements with several of Ireland's major wholesale telecom providers, which allow us to bring broadband to any location that has a fibre network. However, we must rely on the rollout of the National Broadband Plan in order to provide broadband to Ireland's harder-to-reach locations. Unfortunately, until the National Broadband Plan is implemented, we will continue to see schoolchildren hindered by poor internet speeds and lack of access.