LGfL

Last week, Mark Reynolds, Schools Business Manager, Microsoft,  attended the launch of ‘’London Grid for Learning 2.0’’ to gain an understanding of the new contract between them and Virgin Media Business.

The London Grid for Learning has been serving London schools for over 10 years. Yes, they’re best known for broadband, but have also been responsible for many large IT projects like the London MLE (Managed Learning Environment) and LondonMail – the pupil email service based on Live@Edu. Life for LGfL has changed a lot in the new political climate. The cost saving agenda from central government has resulted in big changes for the 33 London Boroughs that make up LGfL, and in turn the way LGfL do business has had to change too.

Last week, I went to the launch of “LGfL 2.0” and the announcement of their new contract with Virgin Media Business. Their current contract with Synetrix comes to an end in 2012 and they ran a new procurement at the end of last year. Virgin were the successful bidder and are now embarking on a new partnership with the LGfL, which will see over 2200 schools migrated onto a new broadband infrastructure. Brian Durrant, the grid’s CEO, spoke about their “challenge to the telecoms industry” - to come up with a good deal for schools, and to build a network that could also be used by other public service organisations.Virgin

“LGfL has an established track record of providing feature rich services for schools, while securing savings by representing London schools’ collective buying power in the ICT market. The LGfL 2.0 service is a strategic response to the end of grant support for ICT. The underlying broadband costs have been driven down through a new partnership with Virgin Media”.

This new deal will allow London schools to get much faster broadband connections, and to continue benefitting from the huge range of services that are bundled with an LGfL connection.

A great example of this is their content grid – which gives all schools on the LGfL access to a broad range of teaching and learning resources, at a fraction of the cost you’d pay if you bought them as an individual school. Did you know: any London school with broadband from LGfL gets free access to the The Guardian and Observer digital archive, which has every Guardian newspaper printed from 1821 and every Sunday Observer from 1791 (making it the oldest Sunday newspaper in the world). This would cost an individual school around £1500 to buy on its own!

One other thing that its important to understand, is how the funding works for LGfL. Previously, the LA’s pooled their Harnessing Technology grants, meaning that most schools have had their service subsidised in the past – often just thinking that broadband was “free” from the LA. Now, with the Harnessing Technology grant having come to an end, the schools are responsible for funding their own broadband. This isn’t specific to London – its happening in all areas of the country. This also doesn’t mean that RBCs (Regional Broadband Consortia) have put their pricing up – in fact, to buy the same services as an individual school it will cost you significantly more than staying with the LGfL – but you should be aware (and warn your SMT) that from now on, there are no central pots of money given to the LA for broadband.

So, if you’re a London school, here’s what happens next:

· LGfL (or your LA, in a few cases) will be writing to you in the next 6 weeks, explaining the changes and giving you a sign-up pack

· You take the online code from the pack, sign into their website, and review the various options available to you

· Choose which size of broadband pipe you want, and sign up online – most Secondary schools should really be looking at 100MB connections, and for Primary schools it really depends on your usage

· Schools will be changed over to their new lines between April 2011 and July 2012 (when the Synetrix contract ends)

· The new billing model will come in from April 2011

Lastly, this video explains things a lot better than I have, and there is lots more detail at www.lgfl.net