Established in 1967, Newman Catholic School is a learning community committed to the high achievement of all students. With a focused curriculum, the school cultivates success and fosters the highest aspirations through excellent teaching and learning facilities.
They inspire enthusiasm for life-long learning and students are guided every step of the way to help them achieve their full potential and continue their successes from education to employment.
As part of this ethos, Newman Catholic School offer a first class ICT provision to enhance teaching and learning. And because ICT plays such an important role to the delivery of education within the school and beyond, they’re continually investing in and updating their IT facilities to ensure that students have access to resources both in and outside of school for an anywhere, anytime approach to learning.
Back in 2005, Carlisle – the home of Newman Catholic School, hit national headlines after it was submerged by flood waters which caused devastation across the city – including the school.
The 2005 flood hit the school badly but they got back on their feet and put new provisions in place should anything like this ever happen again.
They say though that lightning never strikes twice. But unbeknownst to Newman School, they were to be hit by a natural disaster for a second time a decade later – this time only worse.
Speaking about this experience, Colin Devlin, Network and IT Manager at Newman Catholic School explains, “The rain started over the weekend and it fell and fell and fell. We turned up at school on the Tuesday and from the minute we saw it we knew that the rain had had a huge impact. Everything was devastated.
“After the first time this happened in 2005, we never thought it would happen again, but gosh we were wrong! We’d put provisions in place – like having the server rooms upstairs so that they wouldn’t be damaged, but the flood was so severe this time round that we couldn’t even get upstairs to the servers it was that dangerous. People were having to be rescued from the school and a substation attached to the school had blown up, it was so bad.
“Everyone was extremely upset by what had happened. I mean you know it can’t be helped but it was completely destructive to the wellbeing of both the school and our students, not to mention absolutely disruptive to our student’s learning.
“As well as this though, literally everything had been destroyed. Not a single PC had survived and entire IT suites were ruined. We had five ICT rooms downstairs and the whole lot had gone. Interactive whiteboards, smartboards and projectors in classrooms were all destroyed too. Hundreds of thousands of pounds right there – just gone because of some rain. The frustrating thing is that all of the equipment was relatively new having only just replaced it. It’s unbelievable really, especially as this had happened before – you really couldn’t make that up!”
Left in a complete state of turmoil, the school needed help and fast.
The first thing for Newman Catholic School to do was to find somewhere where the students could continue their studies. As a school that prides itself on the learning potential of their students, disruption to learning outcomes was something they wanted to avoid where possible, so finding premises that would allow them to do this was vital.
Having been sat in damp conditions for nearly two weeks, the school also needed to find a place where they could host their servers to see if it all still worked or even switched on. They urgently needed access to the network so that lessons could continue and plans could be made to get the school back up and running.
Within a short space of time, Newman Catholic School had premises to go to which meant things could start progressing. Speaking further about this, Colin explains, “We made contact with a couple of the local schools as getting back on track was imperative.
“Luckily for us, a local primary school was being vacated as they were going to a brand new state-of-the-art building, so that meant we could use their premises for lessons to continue. I’d also spoken with Sutherland Smith, the IT manager from Trinity School, and he was able to give us some rack space to host our servers and test them all out while refurbishments were going on at the temporary site. In order to get access to the servers through Trinity’s firewall we needed the help of the support company used by Trinity. This then enabled the SLT and the Headteacher to work remotely and devise a timetable for the new premises. They would be able to work remotely until we were ready to move everything to the temporary site. Everyone was so helpful and accommodating – we were exceptionally lucky to have that level of support.”
With a plan now in place, Colin and his support team, Connor Freebairn (Newman School IT Technician), had to try and rescue what they could from the IT room upstairs at Newman Catholic School and create a usable network at the temporary site. Colin explains, “We had a two-week period where we weren’t allowed to go up to the IT room to avoid contaminating the upstairs classrooms. Once we were finally able to get up there, we salvaged what we could to give to staff so they could continue with their teaching practices as best they could. After all, this was our students’ education that was at stake, so we did all we could to get things up and running. At the times when we couldn’t get access to our temporary site due to power or modifications going on, we would sit in my conservatory, where we had setup a small network using salvaged equipment, and image old pupil laptops for staff who had lost theirs in the flood.”
With very little else other than a few desktops, the school desperately needed more equipment to assist with the day-to-day teaching and learning activities. Colin had been working with Stone for a number of years by this point and up until the flood destroyed the school they’d been looking into purchasing Stone All in Ones for the classrooms and IT suites.
Having heard about the disaster that the school had faced and wanting to help out where they could, Stone donated a number of refurbished PCs to help the school get back on their feet. Colin comments, “It was only through a passing conversation with Angela, our account manager, that talk of Stone donating some devices came about. She came to me and said they’d donate some PCs to help us get on our feet and get started so that teaching and learning wasn’t affected too badly. We had very little that had survived the flood so this was an absolute blessing in disguise. They were devices that had been refurbished and at first I didn’t think they’d be any use to us but in fact they’ve proved to be a real help in allowing us to be able to get back on track and have helped us out immensely.”
Despite having use of the primary school building, there were over 600 students to accommodate and unfortunately there would be no way of fitting them all in. But with plenty of land to spare, Newman Catholic School arranged for a number of portacabins to be put in place to accommodate everyone. Colin explains, “We needed to make sure that we could carry on with our normal day-to-day routines, but with 600 students and a small primary school there was no way we were getting everyone in there. We rented 12 portacabins which arrived as fully fitted classrooms with interactive whiteboards and projectors as well as 4 dedicated ICT rooms too. The only thing left was to get more PCs and a wireless provision in place.
“We’d already ordered 6 wireless access points prior to the flood so we were able to use these to give wireless coverage to a portion of the site, allowing teachers to gain access to teaching and learning resources in nominated places around the site. We purchased a number of Stone All in Ones for the ICT rooms as well as over 100 notebook devices for staff and students. As an added bonus – we even got to keep the eval units Stone had sent us to try out!”
With a temporary school now up and running with IT facilities that would accommodate both student and staff needs, Newman Catholic School can now focus on the future and maintaining that high standard of education that they pride themselves on. It is still unclear whether they will ever get back to the original Newman site or whether a new site and school will be the way forward.
I’m exceptionally grateful to Stone for everything they have done for us, especially donating those refurbished devices to help us get back on our feet as quickly as we could. It really was a very kind and generous thing they did for us and I can’t thank them enough. They were also kind enough to send out some power supplies for those laptops that had survived but had lost the power bricks”
“We’ve been working with Stone for about 6 years now and they always offer a very good service – this just tops that off nicely!