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300 small schools to be connected to online world

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Education

29 August 2005 Media Statement

300 small schools to be connected to the online world

Around 300 small schools with no computer network infrastructure will be able to join the online world thanks to $11 million of government funding to help them build new computer networks, Education Minister Trevor Mallard announced today.

“’Being connected’ is fundamental to learning in the 21st century,” said Trevor Mallard. "Our vision for New Zealand is that all schools can benefit from information and communication technologies wherever they are located. This project is about reducing the wide variation between schools and bringing school networks up to Ministry of Education network standards.

“A survey of schools conducted in 2004 revealed that small schools face disproportionate costs in building computer networks. These small schools are therefore much more likely than larger schools to have no network infrastructures.

“This initiative will help teachers and students in small schools access a wider range of resources, such as digital learning and other rich multi-media materials that help students learn. These resources are increasingly available through websites such as the Ministry of Education’s Te Kete Ipurangi.

“Schools can also expect significant productivity gains from using reliable and fast networks. There will also be administrative efficiencies from being able to use on-line student management systems and improved learning outcomes from access to Ministry of Education assessment tools such as asTTle (Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning).”

The proposed network upgrades complement the recently completed Probe Project, which has brought broadband capability to hundreds of small schools across New Zealand. This, in conjunction with the rollout of thousands of teacher laptops, has increased the need for well designed network infrastructures in schools.

The Ministry of Education will partially fund schools to upgrade their networks. Financial assistance will be made available to schools at a 4:1 contribution for schools with roll sizes less than 77 students, and at a 3:1 contribution for schools with roll sizes between 77 and 187 students. Trevor Mallard said that funding to provide assistance to more schools would be considered in the future.

Torque IP, a specialist division of Connector Systems Limited, has been selected as the prime contractor to install cabling, switching and a server, aimed specifically at meeting the needs of small schools.


FAQs: Connecting small schools

What will the network upgrade include?

The offer to 300 small schools will include:

- A Molex certified cabling installation with a 20 year warranty.

- Additional power outlets at each data outlet.

- A 24 port Allied Telesyn Ethernet switch with a 3 year warranty.

- An Acer server with a 3 year warranty running a customised SUSE Linux operating system from Smart Computer Systems in Christchurch

- System administrator training.

- Network design and project management of the installation.

This offer is for a total package where the Ministry has used centralised purchasing to get a price that allows this project to proceed. The equipment being supplied is high quality and well-tested, and well-regarded and supported nationally.

How will schools be selected?

The results of the School Network Survey of schools conducted in 2004 have been used to prioritise schools for upgrading. The survey indicated that small schools are much more likely than larger schools to have no or poor quality network infrastructures due to facing disproportionate higher costs in building computer networks. Many small rural schools also face challenges around getting good advice and specialised installers. Therefore, funding assistance available at this time will be offered to small schools having no computer networks.

The final list of 300 schools to receive the upgrade will depend on how many schools decide to take up the offer. If some schools decide not to go ahead this will allow schools which are next in line, in terms of priority, to be invited.

On what basis have schools been categorised as “very small” or “small”?

Schools have been divided into quartiles based on roll size. Schools with a roll size of less than 77 (i.e. 25% of New Zealand schools) have been classified as “very small”. Schools with roll size from 77 to 187 (the second quartile) have been classified as “small”.

What is the objective of the Network Upgrade project?

This project is about reducing the wide variation between schools and bringing school networks up to the Ministry of Education network standards so that all schools can benefit from information and communications technologies.

When will the Schools Network Upgrade project be rolled out?

The first information packs will be sent to selected schools in August 2005 with the work beginning as soon as possible. Depending on the level of uptake from these schools, further batches of schools will be invited to apply later on. It is expected that this project will be completed at the end of 2006.

The installation for individual schools could be anytime during the 16 month period depending on how quickly they take up the offer and also the availability of certified installers in their area.

How much do schools have to contribute?

Where the school roll size is under 77 students, the school will be required to contribute 20% of the total upgrade cost. For most schools of this size the likely contribution will range from $4,000 - $6,500.

Where the school roll size is greater than 77 students, the school will need to contribute 25% of the total upgrade cost. For most schools of this size the likely contribution will range from $6,500 to $10,000.

Why isn’t the Ministry fully funding this initiative?

Schools are currently funded for data cabling through their 5 Year Property (5YP) budget, and are therefore expected to allocate of part of their 5YP budget.

As with the teachers laptop programme a contribution by the school will ensure that there is local ownership of what is a large project. It also enables a large number of schools to be supported. Schools who choose to not take up the upgrade offer can continue to spend their money elsewhere on other projects.

What about schools which have already invested in ICT network infrastructures?

Many schools have invested in school networks over the past five years. By having the foresight to prioritise investment in ICT, students at these schools are already reaping the benefits. The Ministry is not in a position to fund these investments retrospectively. The Ministry would like to offer some level of assistance to all schools hence the intention to seek further funding in Budget 2006.

Why are state-integrated schools being treated differently?

State-integrated schools will be provided with partial funding on switching equipment and servers. Cabling is considered part of the building fabric, similar to electrical wiring and plumbing, and is the responsibility of the proprietor as the buildings are not owned by the Crown.

What about funding for the remaining schools?

Cabling is a legitimate use of 5 Year Property (5YP) funding. The network standards have been incorporated into the design guidelines for schools and the expectation is that these are incorporated into new building work. The amount allocated for Property has been increased in the latest round of funding to schools.

Funding will be sought in Budget 2006 to provide assistance to all other schools. However, no assurances can be given in this area. It cannot be assumed what the extent or scope of any subsequent approval might be.

This is a one-off offer of assistance from the Ministry to roll-out a network solution for small schools. There is no guarantee that there will be further offers of this nature in the future.

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