Broadband: The last school in Wales to get fast internet

By Caroline Evans
BBC News

Media caption,
Pupils describe trying to do work without broadband

In Fishguard's Ysgol Llanychllwydog the children are excited about next term before the summer holidays have even begun.

Their school is the last in Wales without broadband. But not for long.

Currently, the 22 pupils sometimes have to wait half an hour for pages to load. Sometimes videos won't play.

Now the school in rural Pembrokeshire is looking forward to an ultra-fast future, and for the head teacher the changes cannot come quickly enough.

At the moment when the internet goes down Amanda Lawrence has to drive 10 minutes to her other school to send an email to report it.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
Fishguard's Ysgol Llanychllwydog is the last school in Wales without broadband

"It's frustrating," she said.

"There are lots of schools that are able to use schemes where you can plan electronically, but it's difficult for staff here to do that."

Under a scheme to target hard-to-reach places, fibre optic cable is being laid along a 15-mile route from Haverfordwest.

Openreach's Matt Lovegrove admitted it had been "a massive challenge".

He said: "We've had to plough 1.5 miles of new trench to put new duct in, we've had to put new poles and had to span the cable between 50 poles as well, so a real variety of challenges.

"The product is limitless in terms of speed. It's gigabit capable, that means they can download music, interactive learning et cetera, and it will be instant for them."

Image caption,
Digital access in classrooms is currently a struggle

The upgrade could benefit the wider community, he said, and has been built to last.

"We are looking to work with local government and residents to expand that fibre footprint to as much of the village as possible," Mr Lovegrove said.

"They'll be able to access the high speed broadband and again get all the benefits from that."

Broadband is a Welsh Government priority. It's invested £13.8m in school broadband.

But Llanarchllwydog has been a tough nut. It's taken the efforts of Welsh and UK governments to bring broadband.

"Because of the challenging topography, that we are familiar with, it has taken rather a long time to make sure that every school is equipped with the broadband speeds that they need," said Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams.

"This means that schools will have the external infrastructure that they need to deliver our exciting new curriculum and I hope to be making an announcement shortly on further investment on kit and equipment inside schools."

Image caption,
The new school year will mean a more modern classroom for the pupils

The work is being done through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity programme.

DCMS minister Margot James MP agrees cooperation between the two governments has helped deliver the project.

"That's not the end of it for Wales," Ms James said.

"The other aspects of the rural gigabit connectivity programme is that we are using that £200 million to bring full fibre to local public buildings like hospitals and schools so that they get the gigabit connectivity first."

The cable has now reached the telegraph post outside the school. The final work will happen over summer.

It means children will return to a much more modern school in September.