Focus on Learning
Internet solutions so simple teachers can focus on the classroom
- By Stina Ehrensvard
- Jan 01, 2012
Here is how a leading primary school in the United Kingdom
solved a problem of providing Internet security tools to protect
staff from a variety of security threats when accessing the
school’s online resources and network from home, keeping the
focus on learning.
Goldsworth Primary School
Goldsworth Primary School is a co-educational day school, situated in Woking,
Surrey, U.K. It moved to its current location in 1994 and the building is designed
for 420 students, ages 4-11.
Goldsworth prides itself on having the highest educational standards, with a
faculty dedicated to nurture each child to his or her fullest potential of learning
and growing during the school year. And the school’s track record shows these
goals are being achieved. The school has been rated an outstanding school by
Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. This
is the highest level of assessment.
Starting at age 4, students receive education delivered through a broad and
balanced school curriculum within a caring, stimulating and challenging environment.
This strong approach to education helps inspire the students to become
confident, independent learners. With this confidence, students participate in all
school activities with the desire to excel.
From entry to graduation, it is important that students fully understand what
is expected of them and know that their opinions are valued. Goldsworth’s children
are well motivated in a secure, happy atmosphere where they receive relevant
praise and encouragement.
In December of 2010, Jo Barber, IT technician for Goldsworth, recognized that
the school needed to provide a way to allow both teaching and support staff full
access to the school network from home. Because security is an essential priority
to the school’s network access, a two-factor authentication solution was deemed
vital as well.
“I noticed that many members of our teaching staff were taking their work
home with them,” Barber said. “This can be expected, but we wanted to make
sure this was being done in the most effective way possible. We didn’t want our
teachers to be forced to carry their laptops or memory sticks back and forth with
them every day. This was not only an inconvenience but also a security risk to our
Home-based and remote computers of teachers and support staff were not
guaranteed to be under the same robust security standards as those on the school’s
premises. With computers moving from home to the school’s network, and with the
increased use of social media networks and a variety of potential e-mail threats,
Barber didn’t want to take the chance of an accidental virus or malware outbreak.
Secure VPN connectivity from these remote computers to provide remote desktop
services from the school’s network would be a vital key to keeping the network and
individual staff safe.
“In addition to the convenience and safety need for two-factor secure remote
connectivity, the school also was going through the process of becoming an academy,
a process in which it’s essential for staff to participate,” Barber said. “The
application to become an academy consists of a four-step submission and review
process that can often last three to four months. During this time period our administration
staff had an increased responsibility, in addition to their normal
workload, to participate in the submission process, which required more time
spent working from their home computers.”
In May 2010, the U.K. secretary of state for education announced The Academies
Act 2010. This new legislation allowed the secretary of state to approve
applications from schools that wish to become academies. The Academies Act
2010 was put in place to allow more schools to benefit from academy freedoms
and flexibilities. Academies are publicly funded independent schools, free from
local authority control. Becoming an accredited academy helps Goldsworth to innovate,
raise standards and help students achieve even more than they do already.
Barber needed an IT security solution that combined effective security with
ease of use and could fit within the confines of the school’s tight budget. Because
the public increasingly measures school budgets tied directly to the classroom,
balancing the requirements of effective and simple security with limited budgets
eliminated several options the school was considering.
With a tight budget, Barber evaluated solutions that not only would fit her twofactor
authentication and security requirements but that were also easy to install
and required low maintenance. After reviewing several vendors and applications,
Barber discovered the convenience and high security solution offered by Yubico.
“We settled on a VPN solution using YubiKey to provide two-factor authentication,”
Barber said. “The technology uses YubiRADIUS for authentication,
which itself connects to our Microsoft Active Directory and YubiCloud authentication.
“Yubico’s free and downloadable software gave us a quick and easy method to
set up this two-factor authentication solution.”
Goldsworth began the implementation
of YubiKeys as a two-factor authentication
solution in March 2010
with its staff of five administrators as a
pilot and then rolled out to the teaching
staff quickly thereafter.
Once staff had YubiKeys, they were
instantly able to securely connect to the
remote desktop server, log in and work
as if they were in the building. The YubiKey
simplifies the process of logging
in with a One-time Password (OTP) token,
as it does not require the user to retype
long passcodes from a display device
into the login field of the computer.
Staff members simply have to insert
the YubiKey into a USB port of their
home computer and the OTP is generated
and automatically entered with a simple
touch of a button on the YubiKey,
without the need for any client software
or drivers. Additionally, the secure twofactor
authentication for remote access
allowed the school to deploy simpler
and more user-friendly policies for network
access when at school.
Teachers are quickly able to share
the day’s agendas, lesson plans and best
practices and review student materials
from their home computers while saving
documents and other materials directly
on the network server. The remote VPN
connectivity also allows teachers to access
networked printers, enabling them
to print their materials from their home
computer to in-school printers, greatly
YubiKeys are rugged, ultra-thin,
battery-free, crush safe and waterproof,
making them virtually indestructible,
a design that been fundamental to the
success of the YubiKey, currently used
by more than a million users globally.
Work, Life Balance
“Staff have welcomed this new way of
working as they no longer need to carry
heavy laptops to and fro,” said Paulone
Alexander, head teacher at Goldsworth.
“Plus there is an improved work/life
balance with the ability to work from
home or, indeed, anywhere.”
Since implementation, staff and
teachers at the school enjoy the ease
of use and increased productivity they
have obtained from their secure VPN
connection with the YubiKey.
The additional requirements put on
the staff and teachers from the submission
and application to become an
academy became greatly streamlined by
the ability to securely work from home
and directly share data with other staff
“Ease of use, low cost, and the fact
that we have had zero problems since
we have deployed the YubiKeys is absolutely
brilliant,” Barber said. “Our
priority at this school is to educate
our children, and we couldn’t work
with a solution that took a lot of time
or was constantly requiring maintenance.
To date, there have been no issues
or maintenance required on the
YubiKey two-factor authentication
solution for our remote access, it has
been a perfect fit for
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Security Today.