Rural school transported from the country lane to the ultrafast highway

Stalbridge Primary School is now connected to ultra fast full fibre broadband thanks to Dorset Council’s GigaHub project. Pictured are pupils with (from left to right): Headteacher Simon Elledge, Dorset Council portfolio holder for Corporate Development and Transformation, Cllr Jill Haynes and Wessex Internet CEO Hector Gibson Fleming.

A rural school has been transported onto the ultrafast broadband highway thanks to Dorset Council’s £870,000 ‘GigaHub’ project and Wessex Internet.

Stalbridge Primary School, near Sturminster Newton, is one of dozens of rural schools and community buildings being connected to some of the fastest internet speeds in the country.

The council was awarded government funding to connect 35 schools, libraries and a visitor attraction to next generation, full-fibre broadband as part of the government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit roll-out.

Currently, 14 sites across Dorset are already benefitting and they are in areas where there were no plans to roll-out full fibre.
Without this investment, schools like Stalbridge Primary could have waited years for full-fibre to arrive – now they are enjoying all the advantages fast broadband brings.

Headteacher, Simon Elledge, said: “Before joining Stalbridge Primary I worked as an Apple Distinguished Educator, working with technology in London schools. I am very passionate about the benefits digital can bring to schools and pupils.

“I was absolutely delighted when we were contacted by the council and asked if we would like to be part of this project.
“We have 190 children who all use the internet heavily in school to support their learning. With two sets of 15 laptops and two sets of 15 iPads in constant use, effective broadband is essential.

“Our teachers all use screens with their own Wi-Fi connection, which enables us to be flexible in our approach to teaching.  Using all those applications on our old broadband speeds was sometimes a struggle but now it’s an absolute breeze.”

And having future-proof broadband opens many more opportunities for the school.

Simon is hoping to install environmental webcams so the pupils can learn more interactively about the wildlife that lives in their rural community. A project that would have been impossible to even consider just a few months ago.

Blandford-based Wessex Internet was awarded the contract to install the fibre broadband to GigaHub sites.

By bringing the fibre to these areas, it will mean the infrastructure is in place to make it easier to connect surrounding residents and businesses.

Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Corporate Development and Transformation, Cllr Jill Haynes, said: “It’s wonderful to see the difference our GigaHub project is already making to schools like Stalbridge Primary.

“Our reliance on very good broadband speeds is only going to become more important as technology evolves.

“As a rural councillor, I know how important it is that we work with the government to ensure our areas are not left behind in this increasingly digital world.”

The sites that make up the ‘GigaHub Connectivity in Rural Dorset Project’ – including 22 primary and secondary schools – are situated across the county, from Purbeck in the south to Gillingham in the north.

Durlston Country Park is also set to be connected and the funding will also help two libraries, a care home and a children’s centre. All sites in the project will be connected to full fibre by September.

Hector Gibson Fleming, CEO of Wessex Internet, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Dorset Council to provide a full fibre connection to important community sites like Stalbridge Primary School.

“Not only will schools and other community facilities benefit from ultrafast and reliable connectivity, surrounding homes and businesses will also be able to get connected.”

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