Talking point: Wi-fi in schools

21 Feb

According to a recent survey, “pupils in England are at risk of missing out because their schools do not have good enough wi-fi”. 

However, do schools really need to use wi-fi, rather than cables?
Voice is concerned about wi-fi in schools.

In the last few years there has been a great weight of evidence from around the world which suggests that exposure to electromagnetic radiation can have long-term health impacts, particularly on children, and that exposing young children (from birth to 12) to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) can produce changes in cell formation, genetic changes, and potential cancers.

Exposure levels are only half the story; length of exposure is crucial too. Long exposures at lower intensity levels may be as damaging as high exposure levels for short periods hence our concern about wireless networks in schools and nurseries.

It is a considerable concern that in schools we are installing wi-fi systems and we have no clear evidence that they are safe.  Our concern is that until they are declared to be safe and proven to be safe we should not be installing them in schools.

The difficulty is that once installed in schools, they are switched on constantly. Whether the children are using them or not, they are exposed to that level of radiation.

Voice has advocated that new wi-fi systems should not be installed in schools, that existing systems should be turned off when not required and that schools should consider whether they really need to use wi-fi, which was developed to facilitate Internet access on the move rather than to be used as a convenient alternative to cables in dedicated IT facilities.

With such strong opinions on both sides of the argument, serious and sustained scientific research is needed to establish conclusive facts about the potential long-term effects on children, particularly into the potential impact on developing brains.

Are you worried about wi-fi where you work? Do let us know your views.

Further information

You can find out more at

Wireless technologies and young people: A resource for schools (Wi-fi in Schools, 2011)

Panorama, BBC1, May 2007

First published 11 May 2010 and updated 21 February 2013

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16 Responses to “Talking point: Wi-fi in schools”

  1. John Tuerena 04. Oct, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    Surely the Netherlands did a massive study on radio waves and found they had no effect on anything??

    [MODERATOR: This comment was originally made under Rules ( where it could not be displayed so has been placed here as it seems to be a comment on wi-fi.]

  2. Richard Fraser 03. May, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Article in “SecEd”: “The wi-fi debate: []

    • Rebecca 03. May, 2012 at 9:56 am #

      It would actually be really great to have a comprehensive review of what information is out there. As someone who regularly advises schools about the use of technology I would like to be more informed myself.

      Could we not have some pointers to what research is out there – then we would be able to talk to MPs about getting some ‘serious’ research done. I too was under the impression that research had been carried out and it was found to have little effect.

      • Richard Fraser 03. May, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

        Some possible sources of information:




        • Rebecca 04. May, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

          That’s great Richard, thanks!

  3. Alison Taylor 22. Feb, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    This article says that Voice is concerned. Has there been a discussion at Council or a questionnaire completed by members to say that this is a majority view?
    I am a Teacher: Access to the Curriculum ( ICT), and my colleagues and I are getting increasingly frustrated across Scotland as to the lack of wi- fi in our schools and the adverse effect of this on our learners. We are trying to move towards a ‘bring your own machine to school’ capability which will give us opportunities to educate our pupils fit for the 21 st Century. Mike Russell in the Scottish Government is also frustrated and disappointed by the barriers to learning in this area within Curriculum for Excellence.
    Let’s help our young people move forward in this brave new world and roll wi- fi out to all schools.

    • Richard Fraser 25. Feb, 2013 at 9:26 am #

      Thank you for your comments. It is useful to receive the views of a practitioner who has a positive view of the benefits of wi-fi.

      The background to Voice’s concerns – which originated in member casework – can be found at:

  4. Deborah Lawson, General Secretary 27. Feb, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Wi-fi is a fact of 21st century life. Our smartphones tell us when wi-fi networks are available, be that walking along the street, sat on a bus or train or in a coffee shop. Therefore many pupils are (often constant) users of this technology so it makes sense to harness their acceptance and informal use to maximise their engagement with education and learning and in doing so their aspirations, goals and achievement.

    The caution, however, is in relation to very young children and the impact on the developing brain – do we know enough about the impact of wi-fi technology on this? This is why research is needed to either prove or disprove the harm wi-fi technology can present and enable us to accept and embrace it with absolute confidence.

    The majority of very young children will probably be living in wi-fi friendly households. Those who are not should not be denied access to electronic learning opportunities in school. Without research into the matter we do not know what normal use or exposure is and the impact of (over)exposure on the development of young children or the likely impact on individuals or society in the future.

    For these reasons Voice has raised concerns and asked for research into the matter. We are a 21st century union with 21st century attitude and members and we embrace technology and all that it can offer.

  5. Lara 28. Feb, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    It’s really a cool and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Dewey 01. Mar, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Hey there! I’m surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

  7. Richard Fraser 11. Nov, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    “Wi-Fi Radiation in Schools: Teachers and Employers” by Voice member Michael Bevington:

  8. Richard Fraser 24. Jun, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    “Pregnancy wi-fi”:


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