Hockerill Anglo-European College, a boarding school in Hertfordshire, has installed a new high capacity network to enable language students to take part in “virtual foreign exchanges” using video conferencing technology.

The fibre optic network from Virgin Media Business offers speeds of up to 100Mbps and up to 1GB of capacity – enough for the school's 1,000 students and staff to access super-fast video streaming, video conferencing and CCTV.

According to Virgin, teachers are now able to use multimedia iBooks and video tutorials in their lessons, and the school's management team can also interview teachers over the internet.

Meanwhile, pupils can have regular contact with students across the globe without having to leave the classroom, and also stream live video and Skype with their parents in their free time.

Simon Dennis, Principal of Hockerill Anglo-European College, said that the school had previously relied on a 10Mbps broadband connection provided by the local authority, which was prone to dropping out, causing frustration to staff and pupils.

Virgin Media Business offered to install a network with ten times the capacity for about £3,000 less a year, so the switch was a “no-brainer”, according to Dennis. The school is spending about £30,000 a year on the new network.

“For us the internet has become our fourth utility, it has cut costs, benefited our staff and made the learning experience more interactive and exciting for students,” he said.

“At an international school like this 24/7 connectivity and round-the-clock customer support is essential, from this network we’ve got all of that and cut on-going maintenance costs.”

Lee Hull, director of public sector at Virgin Media Business, added that the new network is changing the way students and staff at Hockerill operate.

“We’ve worked with on-the-ground IT staff to deliver more through a bespoke network that’s not only modernising the classroom, but making life behind the scenes far easier too,” said Hull.

“It means that teachers and staff can get on with teaching students rather than being frustrated by slow connection speeds, or bad phone lines.”

Hull added that schools nationwide are faced with delivering next-generation teaching techniques on very tight budgets, and more schools and colleges are likely follow Hockerill's example.