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BYOD wireless network at Thetford Grammar School

Posted on: 06 Jul 15


Thetford Grammar School is a co-educational independent day school in Norfolk for pupils aged 3 ½ to 18. With about 300 students and 40 members of staff, use of the Internet is an essential part of the education process and school administration. Mark Foreman, IT manager and teacher at the school, explains the move to a more extensive bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment.

Need

“The school operated a Wi-Fi infrastructure that had limited coverage and limited capacity for the number of users. We appreciated the ever-growing need for reliable Internet access across the school, not only for the staff but also for the students. Of course, security and access to inappropriate content are key concerns, so the replacement system needed to provide easily controlled levels of filtering,” explains Mark.

Instead of a blanket policy for all users, the school wanted a multi-level approach. While some search terms and sites, such as pornography and gambling, must be blocked for all users, staff needed access to broader selection of sites including social media and web-based email. Students have access only to carefully controlled list of sites approved for research purposes with no access to social media.

Mark notes that there is the possibility that students can access services via 3G over which the school has no control. “Parents must take on this responsibility and we would encourage them to make use of the control settings available on the devices.”

Solution

A Meraki wireless system with filtering was chosen to provide a robust Wi-Fi network with the necessary controls. Linked to the school’s directory of users, the system can identify the user access rights and ensure only the appropriate content is delivered.

“The school has a very clear policy regarding Internet access. It is a very valuable resource, but during class time the use of devices is purely at the teachers’ discretion. In addition, not all students will always have access to a suitable device or, more commonly, it may have a flat battery, in which case we try and make a school-owned device available to them. For group’s like the Junior school [under 11 years old], no devices are allowed to further ensure child protection,” Mark adds.

Benefit

“We are very pleased with the new system and Strident’s support,” said Mark. “It’s a step in the right direction and provides us with a solid foundation on which to build resources for staff and students. The Meraki filtering system offers the high level of control we were looking for.”

As more and more teaching assets are being made available on the Internet, especially rich media content such as video and interact apps, Thetford Grammar School is well placed to take advantage of these resources. 

In addition to school environments, the robust filtering system is ideal for businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, which would like to offer Wi-Fi services. Businesses can provide a secure Wi-Fi environment that prevents access to possibly offensive material or high bandwidth sites such as video-steaming services.


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