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Whopping internet bill sparks frustration at Morley Primary School

PUBLISHED: 15:01 18 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:01 18 November 2016

Morley School headteacher, Laura Green, centre, with some of the staff, frustrated that due to the council changing it's internet provider for schools, Morley has ended up with a £32,000 bill. From left, Kate Easter, Georgia Ryan, Daniel Millican, and Elizabeth Cooper. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Morley School headteacher, Laura Green, centre, with some of the staff, frustrated that due to the council changing it's internet provider for schools, Morley has ended up with a £32,000 bill. From left, Kate Easter, Georgia Ryan, Daniel Millican, and Elizabeth Cooper. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2016

An internet bill so huge it’s unpayable has staff at a rural primary school feeling frustrated and left behind on the information superhighway.

Morley School headteacher, Laura Green, front left, with some of the staff, frustrated that due to the council changing it's internet provider for schools, Morley has ended up with a £32,000 bill. From left, Georgia Ryan, Kate Easter, Elizabeth Cooper and Daniel Millican. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Morley School headteacher, Laura Green, front left, with some of the staff, frustrated that due to the council changing it's internet provider for schools, Morley has ended up with a £32,000 bill. From left, Georgia Ryan, Kate Easter, Elizabeth Cooper and Daniel Millican. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Morley Primary School, which has just 134 pupils, is facing a fee of more than £32,000 if it wants to upgrade to a reliable broadband service. Laura Green, headteacher said: “We’re not being looked after. It’s like being thrown to the dogs.

“Suddenly we’re in a marketplace and each school has to pay whatever the cost is.”

Norfolk County Council has been providing Internet access through BT Outreach, and there was a programme of extending broadband access to outlying schools around the county, including Morley.

But an ‘Updata’ programme is taking over from BT. The change means internet will be cheaper for about 80pc of the county’s schools - in particular those in urban areas - but others, including Morley, face huge bills to go with Updata and stay on course to eventually get decent internet.

Mrs Green said currently, only two or three children could go online at a time. Office tasks such as transferring data, which would only take 30 minutes at a city school, can consume a whole day at Morley.

She said: “The situation hasn’t been good with BT, but at least then we were part of a programme that would have eventually led to superfast speeds.

“It feels like no-one is interested in providing the infrastructure that will enable us to teach our children a 21st century curriculum, and we’re going to fall behind other schools in the country as a result of it.”

A letter to the school from Geoff Connell, the council’s head of ICT and information management, said the school could try to seek out another supplier, but recommended trying to find the money to join the Updata programme. It read: “I hope that you can appreciate that without NCC artificially subsiding the market costs, this is what the school or indeed any organisation requiring access to the Internet in your location currently has to pay for a connection of this speed. 

“It will get cheaper over time as superfast broadband gets rolled out through the Better Broadband For Norfolk Programme, though this may be of little consolation at this point in time.”

Update from 18/11/2016

Since the original publication of this story, Norfolk County Council contacted this newspaper to point out that Updata would have paid for the £32,000 works if the school had signed onto its scheme before a deadline.

An except from Mr Connell’s letter to the school, as referred to above, reads:

Please note that around 80% of the schools who signed up will be paying less though Updata than they did to BT and average connection speeds have also increased.  In order to try to assist the schools that would need to pay more, we tried to compensate for this by inserting some clauses into the contract.  These clauses meant that Updata would need to fund any excess construction charges (ECC) for hard to reach schools (up to a capped level) that signed up to their offering by the deadline date of mid-February, subsequently extended to the end of March 2016.

Unfortunately, this clause cannot apply to your schools as your contract to take on the Updata service was not signed until 21 April 2016 (by Judith Tigerschiold) and missed these deadlines.

Therefore in this instance we cannot make any allowances via the Updata contract for your schools to receive funding, and the Council has decided not to fund these charges as set out in the minutes of the Members Working Group on 23 May 2016.

In reply, Mrs Green said that information had been buried in a previous document sent to the school.

She said: “Updata sent a letter to the previous headteacher of Morley Primary School on 25th January 2016 together with a four-page order form and seven pages of small print entitled ‘Norfolk County Council Schools FAQ Sheet’. At page six, question no. 36 it states:

Q: If I sign-up with NCC until the end of July 2016, can I still change my mind and join the new network at a later date?

A: NCC will arrange for the circuits to be ceased at the end of July. For Learning Stream and Ethernet circuits NCC has to give BT 3 months’ notice. For ADSL o NGN circuits the termination period is 35 days. It is important that you make a decision, as once notice has been given to cancel a circuit, it will not be withdrawn. If you sign later than 12 February you will be included but you will not have a guaranteed slot in the transition programme. For some hard to reach sites, the excessive construction charges are included in the installation charge. This offer expires on 24th March.

“It seems to me that this important information was deliberately buried within the FAQ sheet. Furthermore, it is unreasonable to expect schools to decipher this technical information, go out to tender for providers and make a decision about something as important as this within the limited time frame of eight weeks.”

16 comments

  • All very well the EDP updating the story 2 days after initial publication. Should not they not have checked it out fully before publishing? Whilst I still have sympathy for the school the outgoing head should have done a better handover to her successor, especially as it is something as important as this. Also, why was a deadline imposed in the first place, surely an ongoing contract could start from any date?

    Report this comment

    POGAl

    Friday, November 18, 2016

  • Dan, internet access and broadband is crucial in schools these days, not just in terms of the huge array of educational resources available for schools to use, often for free, which is so important when budgets are so tight, but also in terms of the office function. And whether we like it or not, digital skills are really important, so teaching children about responsible online use as well as how to research information etc is fundamental these days. It is absolutely appalling what has happened to this school and there should have been an element of protection for schools who were going to be adversely affected by the new deal.

    Report this comment

    NW16

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • Before he writes any more articles regarding education, perhaps the author could make himself aware of the difference between "its" and "it's".

    Report this comment

    Powys Canary

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • Dan really don't know what orifice you are talking out of ! This is a small rural school with just 134 pupils my special needs grandaughter attends here after school in town said they couldn't afford her any more, she loves it she's not the best at writing but does well with computer she's coming on well, and one of those sad looking as you put it is my neighbour and I know she gives the school 110%, surely some help must be out there, only just been upgraded to g4 few weeks ago on mobiles

    Report this comment

    stebbie

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • All these sexist remarks are hardly necessary especially when it is probably the archant photographer who asked for the glum faces.. Heads of small lea primary schools do not earn a fortune and are expected to balance books on low payments per pupil. The national curriculum demands pupils are able to access the internet for some aspects of their studies. I suspect NCC has a head in the clouds I T policy. £32k is no doubt frittered away almost daily by inept quality control on the ND R .

    Report this comment

    FlintinChalk

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • Does Norfolk county council lea not have to comply and assist their schools with Ofsted recommendations on IT and internet use ? Signing up to the most expensive access deal when Norfolk schools are among the most underfunded in England , is that left hand knowing what the right is doing?

    Report this comment

    FlintinChalk

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • Why are they all (except the male teacher) putting on sad faces? When did this become a "thing" ? Why stop at sad faces, why not up the ante - a smashed bottle of wine, some fake vomit on the table, maybe an embedded radiohead audio.... drilling home to the reader just how fed up they are because we're too illiterate to 'get this' from the words on the page. As for the Internet. Why do children need access to the internet, really? Sure, I get it's the 21st Century. That's not an answer though. Anything practical and educational can be achieved without the Internet - e.g. multimedia packages.

    Report this comment

    dan

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • Schools are now commercial ventures thanks to the governments desire to turn all schools into academies with head teachers etc able to draw pay packets that would pay this £32,000 bill many times over.

    Report this comment

    el84

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • They would be able to go it alone. The following providers cover the exchange that the school is on: BT Wholesale ADSL, BT Wholesale ADSL Max, BT Wholesale WBC (21CN), TalkTalk (CPW) LLU, Sky Broadband. If the school was to contact each of them, they would probably be able to get an unlimited download package that's suitable and a lot cheaper. TalkTalk and Sky, for example, would give unlimited ADSL broadband (the area is not set up for fibre currently) for £23 per month. The £32k must be to enable FTTC or FTTP ahead of BT doing it for the whole area.

    Report this comment

    So_Many_Haters!

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • Marty McB, to pick up on one comment misses the point. It is a school, not a commercial enterprise. Good internet allows them to teach future generations for the benefit of all. No doubt you do not have to spend all day downloading a file or you would show some sympathy. If you did have poor connectivity would you happily pay £32,000 to resolve it, or would mummy pay it for you?

    Report this comment

    POGAl

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • If OFSTED demands that school pupils have a adequate access to the internet then NCC i.s failing in its duty as an LEA if it fails to provide the funding. can we assume the head of IT at NCC is any better than the head of road planning and do those saying the school should stump up have any idea how little primary schools are allocated per pupil per year?

    Report this comment

    FlintinChalk

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • Paying for upgraded broadband is 'like being thrown to the dogs'? First world problems etc. I would expect better than such hyperbole from a headteacher.

    Report this comment

    Marty_McBoatface

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • marty r I don't suppose the kids voted for free markets or deregulation, probably not the teachers either. The powers that be in NCC through austerity politics have decided to make changes, but this should not be to the detriment of those who chose to live in villages rather than cities. Morley is not remote, being only a few miles from Wymondham, but has a relatively small population. It is that that stops companies like Updata from putting in the infrastructure.

    Report this comment

    POGAl

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • You said it - you're in the marketplace now, and services are cheaper in urban areas and more expensive in remote rural outposts. You all wanted free markets and deregulation, you gotta live with the negatives as well as the positives!

    Report this comment

    marty r

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • "We believe in making the complex simple, providing great service and making sure that networks deliver on what they are supposed to do - enabling communication. We founded Updata in 2003 because we believed that the Local Government market was underserved by the large telecoms carriers and that we could provide a better and sustainable alternative." This is from the Updata website. Company turnover for the year to June 2016 £54.4 million, post tax profit £877,000.

    Report this comment

    POGAl

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

  • This stinks! I bet if it were turned into an academy the money would be made available in a flash. Primary schools should not have to beg for money for things that most of us take for granted. Whoever takes over the contract from BT should do so on a like for like basis and not try to exact a profit. They should be ashamed for even suggesting such a thing. As for NCC they appear to not be very sympathetic even though they have caused the problem.

    Report this comment

    POGAl

    Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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