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Village school celebrates superfast broadband connection

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A Devon village school which has been battling with its internet connection throughout lockdown has been hooked up to superfast broadband.

Teachers at Holywell C of E Primary at Tawstock in North Devon have been unable to stream live lessons or provide other forms of remote learning for their pupils because of their poor internet connections.

But now Openreach is providing the school with superfast broadband.

And the chief executive, directors, managers and engineers who worked on the project have also raised over £6,000 out of their own pockets to enable the school to provide 15 laptops for their pupils.

It’s thanks to the intervention of North Devon MP Selaine Saxby who took up the school’s case with Openreach.

Executive headteacher Susan Denham, who is also head of Bratton Fleming School, said:

“Our connection was terrible with constant buffering and lags.

“We all wasted time waiting for a connection and even then there was often a lag.

“Before lockdown we tried to stream live assemblies between both schools but that failed because of the poor connections.

“During lockdown, we have wanted to deliver some of our remote learning offer through live lessons to those pupils working at home but have been unable to. It seemed unfair that we couldn’t offer this provision when other schools could.

“I took it up with the chair of Tawstock Parish Council, David Luggar, who contacted Selaine Saxby. In turn she contacted Openreach who decided to make us a special project. They’ve laid 10 kilometres of cabling to the school and, as a by-product, it means the whole village will have access to superfast broadband.

“We’ve had around half our 104 pupils in school during the lockdown and all the engineers have been amazing. They’ve maintained social distancing but have been letting the children watch them work.

“And they also decided to set up a GoFund page to raise money to provide our pupils with new laptops.

“Even though the whole school may soon be open again, the superfast connection will have a massive impact on enabling us to provide high quality learning. We are so grateful to the whole Openreach community”

The Chief Executive of Openreach, Clive Selley, and chief engineer, Andy Whale, joined Mrs Denham and Selaine Saxby at the school to join them up to the network in a special, socially distanced ceremony.