The Lakelands School in Shropshire has specialist status in Sports, Modern Languages and Physical and Sensory needs. The secondary school, with 572 pupils aged 11-16, is committed to providing extended services for pupils, parents, families and the wider community. This includes after-school sports, study and interest activities for pupils and support sessions for parents.
In order to meet the needs of the community effectively, Lakelands School has had to undertake an overhaul of the ICT equipment. In 2007, Lakelands partnered with Stone, the ICT services provider to UK public sector and education, to provide the school with the necessary hardware to meet the learning needs of its pupils and the wider community.
Developing the ICT service
10 years ago, Lakeland’s ICT consisted of 67 desktops and one server. The service received from the ICT supplier at that time struggled to meet the modest demands of the school compared with today’s standards. With the considerable challenge to provide support to the wider community in addition to the school, Lakelands realised that an overhaul of its ICT was essential.
From strength to strength
ICT Manager Damian Edwards, who has been with Lakelands School for just under 10 years, recalls how problematic the ICT infrastructure was in the early days of his tenure, “When I first arrived at Lakelands in 2002, it soon became apparent that we were paying far too much for the level of support we received. Moving over to a local supplier initially proved very beneficial as I was able to build up a good working relationship, allowing me to increase our ICT services to 161 machines and 4 servers. In 2007, it was clear that we had gone as far as we could with our local supplier and I needed to find an ICT supplier who was able to match our ambition to provide quality ICT to our pupils and the community.”
The first purchase of hardware from Stone in 2008 consisted of 85 desktop PCs. Over the next three years, the number of workstations at Lakelands School increased to a total of 331, including an additional 6 laptops, 22 virtual servers and 16 servers. Lakelands has been working very closely with Stone to develop this impressive level of ICT capability, managing the 161 desktops purchased prior to 2007, upgrading and refreshing where necessary, and providing an additional 170 workstations as Lakelands moves towards the target of becoming an entirely Stone-approved hardware institution.
Damian Edwards explains, “We recently experienced a minor issue with machines purchased in 2008, which required a visit from a Stone technician. After an investigation, the problem was identified as a faulty motherboard, which was no longer available on the product line. Rather than this causing an issue with the warranty, Stone sourced an alternative motherboard which allowed the existing memory to be transferred, but required the processor to be upgraded. As a result we received a free upgrade through Stone’s commitment to fulfil their obligation to the warranty. It is this approach of putting the customer’s needs first and ensuring that ICT performance is not disrupted wherever possible that simply wasn’t available with our previous supplier and that provides Stone with an impressive competitive advantage.”
As technology in education transforms the way the curriculum is delivered, the ability to constantly provide the latest technological solutions is something that every school’s ICT Manager needs from their suppliers. Lakelands School has partially implemented a Ruckus wireless environment and a transition to a virtualised server environment, a pair of projects that Stone has been able to provide close support for.
Monitoring technological developments within the industry, Damian Edwards was keen to embark on a move to a virtual platform and turned to Stone to offer assistance on the project. The high availability and extra security provided through having virtual servers running on two host servers was a challenge that Damian Edwards presented to Stone. After identifying the services he needed, Damian Edwards recalls the discussions he had with Stone, “Even though we do not have a managed contract with Stone, I have always been able to contact them for advice on any issues I am facing, how to overcome them and how to continually develop and move forward. Impressively, when I initially approached Stone about implementing a Citrix XenServer infrastructure with Marathon Technologies EverRun, instead of simply ending the discussion because they did not have the technology in their portfolio, they proactively researched the market to find a suitable partner and then returned to me with a new offering that allowed me to implement the virtualised server environment I was targeting.”
Meeting the future head on
Damian Edwards concludes, “Since 2007, I have been faced with a number of ICT challenges. The industry has undergone some fantastic improvements in terms of the technology available and we continue to improve our level of service to students and the wider community. Stone has always been able to provide support and practical advice on services, software or hardware and is flexible and innovative in their approach. To me, it is very important to have a good relationship with your ICT provider and they must be willing to go that extra mile with their service. We have recently purchased a Macbook Pro laptop from Stone for our Music department, which demonstrates just how IT is expanding into other areas of the curriculum. The key thing that ICT Managers in education require, in my opinion, is an ICT provider that can constantly adapt and provide viable solutions to the challenges we are facing in the industry. With Stone on board, we have exactly that.”