Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education
I am writing to update you on the next stage of Learning in Digital Wales, the Welsh Government programme of action for improving the use of digital technology for teaching and learning. This pivotal education programme provides stakeholders across Wales with consistent access to a range of centrally-funded, bilingual, digital tools and resources that can support and assist the transformation of digital classroom practices.
Key elements of the programme include:
- Hwb – the digital learning platform for Wales which provides its users with a single point of access to a range of centrally-funded, bilingual, digital tools and resources. Latest usage statistics for October 2017 show that there were a total of 736,813 log-ins during the month - a 55% increase over October 2016 - which equates to an average of over 23,000 log-ins every day.
- Investment in School Broadband – a Taking Wales Forward commitment to provide superfast broadband to all schools in Wales. This work will provide fibre connections for 343 schools across Wales via the PSBA network and will ensure schools are able to access the range of tools and resources available via Hwb, as well as supporting the new curriculum. To date, over a third of our targeted schools have been upgraded to faster speeds as the programme progresses inline with expectations.
- Online safety in Education – a core theme throughout the LiDW programme is online safety. The online safety programme builds on existing expertise and activities to develop sustainable online safety activities across Wales – as well as increasing the amount of resources available in Welsh. Over the past few months, we have been consulting with stakeholders and young people about our new Online Safety Action Plan which will be published in time for Safer Internet Day in February 2018.
- Education Digital Guidance for Schools – guidance will be published shortly to help schools understand how local area network issues can affect their internet connectivity. Local area network issues are sometimes the root cause of connectivity problems experienced by schools, rather than the broadband connections provided to the school. The guidance will help schools to understand these issues, and provide advice on how they can address them to make the best use of the investment made as part of the LiDW programme.
The next phase of the programme will see teachers having more choice about the digital tools that they employ in the classroom with the introduction of Google for Education into the Hwb platform. This development builds upon the existing set of tools available from Office 365 and Just2easy, enabling teachers to choose from a wider range of tools such as Google Classroom, facilitating powerful class collaboration and Device management for Chromebooks. My officials are working closely with the Google Education team to ensure schools in Wales are able to make the most of these new and exciting tools which we aim to make available through Hwb in spring 2018.
This new development has been put in place following feedback from schools as we continue to develop the best possible range of digital tools and resources to support teachers and learners to deliver the new curriculum. As a result of this ongoing feedback, we will not be renewing the Hwb+ virtual learning platform once the current contract expires in August 2018 but will ensure that any functionality that schools need is catered for in our existing and future developments.
We will be communicating with schools, local authorities and regional education consortia about these new developments to ensure they are ready to take advantage of the new digital tools and resources as they become available. We will also be offering support to schools directly to facilitate their transition from the Hwb+ platform.
I will keep you informed through regular updates on this programme over the forthcoming months.