Founded in 1922 as the first co-educational grammar school in England, Barking Abbey is a focal point for the community with an educational provision of national standing.
In 1970, the school merged with Park Modern School to form what has now become Barking Abbey School: A Specialist Sports and Humanities College – one of the first schools in the UK to have received this ‘specialist’ status. And whilst many of the original traditions of the old school are still in place, the school has made important developments to the core infrastructure to enable both the school and students to be fully prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of learning in the 21st century.
The school now aims to increase the ICT skills of students through better use of technology and encourages teachers to promote creativity in the classroom at every opportunity in order to extend and challenge pupils.
In 2003, the school was given a £2 million grant by the government to install brand new equipment into the school as part of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency’s (BECTA) ICT Test Bed Project. This was a scheme initiated by the Labour Government to find out if large scale investment in ICT had an impact on students’ learning and attainment and how the sustained and embedded use of ICT in learning spaces could improve learner outcomes, classroom practice and institutional development.
In that year, Barking Abbey saw their IT estate grow from 100-200 PCs to well over 1000 devices across 20 IT rooms throughout the school. What the scheme did not consider at this time was what would happen further down the line when the IT equipment became outdated and how the estate would be refreshed with a more limited budget.
With hardware that was now 10 years old, Barking Abbey knew they had to act. The system had become extremely outdated and the performance of the IT hardware was proving very unreliable. This was having a major impact on the productivity and creativity of students’ work. They needed a solution that would help to improve an outdated ICT infrastructure and enhance learning standards for students. But with a substantially lower budget compared to 10 years ago this would prove quite challenging.
Subsequently, they put a large scale project in place to transform the entire IT estate over a five year period – starting with the back-end infrastructure and moving onto the PCs.
After carrying out extensive research Barking Abbey decided that leasing PCs would provide them with the best cost saving solution, so went out to market to find the most suitable vendor.
The school were aware of the various payment solution schemes that Stone had to offer and invited them to tender for the project alongside various other suppliers.
After a thorough tender process, Barking Abbey turned to Stone to help them to progress their ICT estate. Speaking extensively with the Stone Payment Solutions Team, the school were advised to take an operating lease. This would mean they could put together a solution that would enable the school to continue with the large scale refresh project without exhausting limited funds.
Speaking of his experience with Stone and the decision to choose them as their IT hardware provider, Paul Leake, Network Manager at Barking Abbey explains: “I joined the school 10 years ago as a technician just as we were given the grant from the government. Having the school equipped with brand new IT equipment was one of the first projects I was involved in. At the time the scheme did not have any long term view for refreshing the equipment, and it became clear that the school would somehow have to build this into our existing budget. This was my first, and highest priority job when I took over as Network Manager 2 years ago, the estate was ageing badly and this was having a severe impact on lesson delivery – it was also stretching the support department to breaking point.
“Given the fact that we did not have another £2 million to spend on new equipment, I needed to find a vendor who could offer me the best solution so we went to tender. I had very clear criteria in place and the final decision would be based on several factors including price, specification and form factor and after sales support.
“Stone delivered in all of these areas and came out on top above all other suppliers who tendered. Throughout the project Stone were engaged with us and I had a very good working relationship with the account manager which only contributed further to the decision to choose them as our preferred supplier.
“They showed a genuine understanding of our requirements which gave me total peace of mind that I had made the right decision. The lead time for delivery, the ability to deliver our PCs boxless for speed of deployment and the turnaround speed of amendments to quotes also helped immensely too.”
The leasing scheme that Stone have introduced has meant that the school can now provide the best technology for students to further develop their ICT skills and creativity.
With over 1000 PCs to refresh, leasing will allow Barking Abbey to replace the entire fleet of PCs and spread the cost over the economic life of the hardware without full upfront capital outlay. This provides greater benefits to the school as the cost of a lease is less than the equivalent capital costs of buying the equipment outright. It has also given the school more flexibility to meet the needs of students by getting their hardware now while spreading the costs over a period of time to suit budgets.
Speaking on this further, Paul explains: “I knew from the start of the project that leasing would be the way forward for the school as it provided us with the best solution given a fractional budget compared to previously. The fact that Stone could offer exactly what was needed plus more was a major benefit and meant that we were able to give students the very best without having to compromise other areas of this large scale project. There have been some major benefits from this for students as well. They can now be more productive and creative in lessons with this new technology and they are not restricted by outdated systems and software. There are a lot less complaints around the school about IT and everyone seems a lot happier; they are benefiting a lot.
“The fantastic leasing scheme we have implemented for our PCs means that we now have clear plans in place to refresh the IT hardware every five years and have a way forward for the future. This will help us to ensure the technology is kept up to date and to prevent our students from getting left behind in a digitally led world.”
“The experience I have had working with Stone has been fantastic. This is a vendor we have never really worked with before but I can now say that they are most definitely a supplier I would work with again.
The support they offered throughout this process has been second to none. They were always engaged with us and genuinely wanted to help us get the right solution to suit our requirements. Stone were quick to turn quotes around and understood our needs better than anyone else – this is service at its best.
They provided us with a cost effective solution to allow us to implement the best technology into our school and the standard of equipment that we now have is excellent. On top of this the quality and support is brilliant. If we experience any problems, their engineers are out the next day repairing the devices or doing everything they can to remedy any issues.
Our continuing relationship with Stone is based not only on their ability to provide us with a truly modern learning environment and IT estate for students to develop, but on their service provision and continual aftercare support too. I am exceptionally happy with the relationship we have formed with Stone – I simply cannot fault them at all.”