BT Broadband Brings Together Two Remote UK Communities Further Apart Than London to Venice
Lady Mary Wilson with pupils from the Five Islands School, Isles of Scilly
High speed broadband communications will bring together schools in two of the most remote locations in the British Isles as BT delivers on its promise of making broadband almost universally available across the UK.
A link up between Five Islands School, on the Isles of Scilly, and Baltasound Junior High School, on the northern tip of the Shetland Islands, marks the success of BT's £1.5 billion broadband investment programme, which has involved the upgrading of more than 5,200 BT exchanges. Across the UK, 99.8 per cent of homes and businesses are now connected to a broadband equipped exchange.
On Thursday October 6, the link-up between the two remote communities will be officially declared open by one of the Isles of Scilly's most famous residents, Lady Mary Wilson, widow of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Her husband was passionately committed to the UK being a world leader in the development of new technology. He coined the phrase 'white heat of technology' more than 40 years ago and his government created the first Ministry of Technology.
The two schools, further apart than London to Venice, are to join together in a twinning arrangement sponsored by BT broadband. During the next 12 months, they will use sophisticated broadband technology to share news and information. The twinning coincides with BT equipping its most south westerly exchange, Scillonia and northerly exchange, Baltasound, with broadband.
The schools, 1004 miles apart by road and ferry, are among the smallest of their type in the country. Baltasound, on Unst, the most northerly island in the UK, has 110 nursery, primary and secondary schoolchildren. It is on the same latitude as Southern Greenland and the nearest railway station is in Norway.
Scilly's Five Islands School has 250 primary and secondary pupils at five locations or bases, of which the smallest is on the island of St Agnes. The St Agnes base has just three pupils. The three St Agnes pupils, Josie Burns, aged seven and Xanthe Hicks and Jacob Burns, both aged four, will take part in the first link-up with Baltasound Junior High School youngsters.
The BT broadband sponsorship includes both communities receiving a variety of broadband equipment, such as laptop computers and webcams.
Lizzie Beesley, BT's South West regional director, said: "Linking together these two communities in this way demonstrates the true power of broadband and epitomises BT's determination to make the high-speed technology available across the UK. The link-up will be a fascinating opportunity for children in two of the UK's most remote communities to be able to share views and information. No doubt, they will find many similarities, but there will also be great differences. For example, the Isles of Scilly has a very temperate climate where frost and snow are rare, whereas Baltasound is on the same latitude as Southern Greenland and the nearest railway station is, in fact, in Norway."
Andrew Penman, head teacher for the Five Islands School, said: "We are all very excited by the opportunities offered by this link-up. The Isles of Scilly is a wonderful place to live, but of course its remoteness can sometimes pose challenges, particularly for our young people who, like any youngsters, are very keen to learn about what is happening elsewhere in the world. High speed broadband will play an ever more important role in the children's education, helping them to access information and share experiences in a way which would have been impossible not so many years ago."
Andrew Spence, head teacher at Baltasound Junior High School, said: "We are very pleased to be able to benefit from this project. Pupils in remote schools can now have another way of keeping in touch with the world outside. And it may be in the future that they can use broadband technology for distance learning, video conferencing or in setting up a local business. It's important for our pupils to be able to use new technology as it comes along."
Lady Mary Wilson said: "My husband understood the significance of technology. As leader of the opposition in 1963 he predicted, in his famous 'White Heat' speech, the sort of technology being used by these schools. Shortly afterwards, as Prime Minister, he created the first Ministry of Technology. He would be delighted to see his predictions of 42 years ago, of technology helping every aspect of life from business through education to culture and pleasure, becoming a reality, accessible to all."
For further information contact Jason Mann, of the BT Press Office, on 0800 085 0660.
The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in actnow through the European Regional Development (ERDF).
St Agnes and Baltasound are 770 miles apart 'as the crow flies' or 1,004 miles apart by road and ferry. Equivalent 'as the crow flies' distances are: London to Venice - 715 miles; London to Barcelona - 712 miles; London to Oslo - 722 miles; London to Madrid - 773 miles.
About the Schools
Unst, the most northerly island in the UK, has a Junior High School at Baltasound, (which combines nursery, primary and secondary schools) and a further primary school at Uyeasound at the southern end of the island. Secondary pupils stay at Baltasound school until the age of 16 and then attend boarding school on the Shetland mainland.
Five Islands School on the Isles of Scilly, has 250 primary and secondary schoolchildren at five bases, the largest of which are Carn Gwavel and Carn Thomas on the main island of St Mary's. Of the remainder, 17 pupils attend the Tresco base, 13 attend St Martin's and just three attend St Agnes, the most south westerly island.
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