Background

Bishop’s Castle Community College located in Shropshire, is a specialist humanities college with over 500 pupils. Since 2006 Bishop’s Castle has spent over £200,000 implementing Stone desktops and servers; this has resulted in 100% of pupils now having access to high specification equipment with the ability to access the internet.

Situation

Bishop’s Castle Community College plays an integral role within the local community, working with primary schools and local businesses. In 2006 the College wanted to expand their ICT usage to provide pupils and the wider community with state-of-the-art ICT equipment, enabling internet use for all those who did not have the facilities available at home. Head of ICT, Gillian Medlicott, and Network Manager, Peter Harris, were asked to help a senior member of staff with the procurement and purchasing of ICT equipment to furnish four brand new ICT suites.

 

Medlicott and Harris approached Stone to help Bishop’s Castle achieve the level of service required to provide IT and internet access to the whole school and extended community. Medlicott explains, “A common presumption in today’s world is that most pupils have access to a PC at home with readily available internet browsing, however, within our catchment area we have two zones that are internet black spots unless a satellite is installed. A survey we carried out in 2011 revealed that 10% of our students had no access to the internet at home – a sample figure which is likely to reflect a wider issue throughout our local community.”

 

 

Solution

Bishop’s Castle Community College plays an integral role within the local community, working with primary schools and local businesses. In 2006 the College wanted to expand their ICT usage to provide pupils and the wider community with state-of-the-art ICT equipment, enabling internet use for all those who did not have the facilities available at home. Head of ICT, Gillian Medlicott, and Network Manager, Peter Harris, were asked to help a senior member of staff with the procurement and purchasing of ICT equipment to furnish four brand new ICT suites.

 

Medlicott and Harris approached Stone to help Bishop’s Castle achieve the level of service required to provide IT and internet access to the whole school and extended community. Medlicott explains, “A common presumption in today’s world is that that most pupils have access to a PC at home with readily available internet browsing, however, within our catchment area we have two zones that are internet black spots unless a satellite is installed. A survey we carried out in 2011 revealed that 10% of our students had no access to the internet at home – a sample figure which is likely to reflect a wider issue throughout our local community.”

 

Having reliable IT equipment enables the Community College to offer additional support for independent pupil learning. Key Stage 4 students now have access to college computers during Wednesday lunchtime to aid with coursework, research on projects and general internet access; as do Key Stage 3 students during Friday lunchtimes. Students taking part in extracurricular activities also have the opportunity to use the equipment outside of lesson time. Expanding ICT services required a supplier that could provide a high level of support should pupils experience a fault with any equipment. Medlicott explains, “In addition to enabling pupils to get online, the new ICT facilities were commissioned with a view to integrate IT more readily into all areas of teaching across the curriculum. Due to the important role this new equipment would fulfil, we searched for a supplier that would be reliable and have a proven track record of customer service should we encounter any problems. Stone offered a dedicated next day on-site maintenance service and a five-year warranty on all equipment all included within the price. Stone were providing excellent value coupled with the reassurance we needed.”
One project in particular to benefit from the ICT facilities is the arts project, SpArC Life, run by 11-25 year olds. Four panels meet on a fortnightly basis and incorporate ICT into many of their workshops, including press and publicity sessions.

Flexible service

Prior to working with Stone, the ICT equipment at Bishop’s Castle was not co-ordinated as part of an overall procurement programme and as such suffered from ageing equipment built around an old fashioned server and ‘thin client’ set-up. The procurement in 2006 created an opportunity to streamline the ICT infrastructure and to gradually phase out the old fashioned thin client resources. Medlicott comments, “When speaking to ICT providers, it soon became apparent that nearly all were unwilling to support our thin client resources in place at the time. Stone was the only supplier that was willing to be flexible around these initial requirements. We now have a coherent, modern ICT strategy with Stone supplying and managing a range of compatible hi-spec equipment throughout the College.”

Building trust

Mr Harris is Network Manager at Bishop’s Castle Community College and has been a member of staff covering technology and learning resources for the last 25 years, in that time he has seen ICT in Education develop from virtually non-existent to an integral part of pupil learning. Harris feels that Stone’s personalised service continues to set them apart from other large ICT hardware suppliers, he explains, “A key benefit to working with Stone is the personalised, specifically tailored service we receive. For the past six years, we have worked closely with our Account Manager, who is our central point of contact. This is the same scenario each time we have maintenance work or new equipment installed, the same Stone technicians carry out the work. Through maintaining the same points of contact, we have established a positive working relationship, with Stone developing an excellent understanding of our situation and requirements. The background knowledge Stone has of our networks and equipment allows us to be confident when speaking to them about our future requirements and we can completely trust the suggestions they make as they are based on our own individual situation. This personalised service and support has ensured that Stone has remained our preferred supplier for the last six years.”

Integration of ICT

The Community College currently has over 200 StonePC Lite desktops equipped with Intel® Dual Core™ and Core™ i3 Processors across the campus in ICT suites and classrooms. It also employs a managed service from Stone to maintain the performance of its server infrastructure. As part of the service the Community College has been able to build and configure a robust and reliable infrastructure using Intel® Xeon® servers. All data is backed up using Stone’s Storevault system, which is a snapshot file system that captures files and information every four hours, making file restoration faster and simpler.

 

Through having dedicated ICT Suites in addition to a reliable network and improved classroom facilities, teachers have been able to integrate ICT into their lessons with minimal disruption. Medlicott concludes, “We now have facilities throughout the college to enable our staff to either include ICT in classroom lessons through group work or book a room for an IT based lesson. ICT is no longer restricted to dedicated lessons as technology literacy and skills are increasingly becoming a requirement within all professions. We can now accommodate the expectation and capability of clear ICT literacy by integrating IT within all areas of the curriculum.”

A key benefit to working with Stone is the personalised, specifically tailored service we receive. For the past six years, we have worked closely with our Account Manager, who is our central point of contact. This is the same scenario each time we have maintenance work or new equipment installed, the same Stone technicians carry out the work.

— Peter Harris, Network Manager