2. The installation of wi-fi in [name of school]

The new [name of school] building, opened in 2006, was designed with a computer system connected by wire to the internet. It did not have wi-fi. The school later installed wi-fi as part of its ‘ICT vision’.6 It is not clear from the minutes of governors’ meetings when this happened. There also appears to be no record in the minutes of any discussion of wi-fi before it was installed, or of a decision that it should be installed.

The governors did, however, consider wi-fi at their meeting of July 2007, after another parent and I had expressed concerns to one of them. The minutes of the meeting record that the Resources Committee had debated the concerns “at some length”, and had referred the matter to the governors for a final decision. 7 The governors decided to continue using wi-fi, noting “that the (minimal) [sic] risk of the school’s system needed to be weighed against the educational benefits of the system.” 8

There is no published evidence that I know of that wi-fi has any educational benefits over a wired system.

More importantly, the governors’ statement implies that they are prepared to take a risk with children’s health for the sake of their education. This position was reflected by the Chair of Governors. In a letter to me he wrote, “we accept that probably no-one knows for certain what the long term effects on health from wi-fi may be.” 9

Most parents would question that order of priorities. For most parents, the health of their children is paramount: education comes afterwards.

Parents trust schools with the care of their children. Governors have a statutory duty to “take reasonable steps to make sure that the school buildings, equipment and materials are safe and do not put the health of persons at risk whilst they are on the premises.”
10

A policy that gives priority to health is one that takes a precautionary approach in face of possible risks to health. This means deciding not to use equipment that might endanger the health of children.

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6 The school’s ICT vision is referred to in the minutes of the Full Governing Body, 19th March 2007, paragraph 8.1.2
7 Minutes, Meeting of the Full Governing Body, 9th July 2007, paragraph 13.1
8 Minutes, Meeting of the Full Governing Body, 9th July 2007, paragraph 13.2
9 Letter from [name], Chair of Governors, to Martin Aitken, 7 October 2007
10 Department for Education and Skills (2006), A Guide to the Law for School Governors, Chapter 15, paragraph 7