As part of the Hummersknott Academy Trust, both Skerne Park and Hummersknott Academy pride themselves on their commitment to providing outstanding and inclusive learning for all students.
They believe in developing every aspect of the people within their communities so that they can live successful and fulfilled lives.
As part of this ethic, both academies adopt values formed by the Trust, including academic excellence and outstanding provision. This ensures that every student achieves the best they can through exemplary teaching and learning and a curriculum that meets all students individual and developmental needs.
In order to fulfil this, both academies rely heavily on having an IT provision in place that allows teachers to teach and students to learn with minimal interruption to lessons and other school activities.
Colin Auton, Technical Systems Manager for Skerne Park and Hummersknott Academy explains: “As an IT department, it’s up to us to ensure the smooth running of the network and to make sure everything works seamlessly across the estates. We started to notice that some hardware had just stopped working and needed replacing without much of an explanation as to why. It made me realise that if we had some form of monitoring system in place we may have been able to rectify the issues instead of having to replace broken units.”
From this, it was determined that there was a desperate need for change in order to deliver an efficient IT service and ensure that potential problems or issues were caught before they had any impact on the delivery of teaching and learning.
Colin continues, “The way we’d been working was proving to be really unproductive – we’d been monitoring the network and then fixing the problems as they occurred. This really wasn’t the greatest use of time!
“I decided that we needed to be more proactive in the way we managed our IT systems – for the sake of not only ourselves but also for the teachers and students across the academies who were relying on the IT to ‘just work’ and to prevent disruption to lessons when something went wrong. We needed a solution that would not only monitor the network but flag up instantly that something in the system was failing before it actually failed. As this just wasn’t something that we were getting from our current support company, I knew we had to change and find someone that could help.”
A tender was released to find a partner who could provide a managed service across the two estates and help the IT team keep the provision up and running with very little impact to the way education was being delivered across the campuses.
Of the six companies that were selected for tender, Stone came out as one of the most favourable options. However, unfortunate circumstances meant that Stone were unsuccessful in winning the bid and the contract was awarded to another supplier.
Colin explains: “Stone had been our preferred supplier from the start, but unfortunately for one reason or another we had to go with someone else. This was disappointing for me, but in the end all was not lost as the partner that we had originally selected wound down the business and ceased trading. We released a second tender following this and Stone were successful that time round.”
The managed service solution that Stone have introduced across the two estates now provides the academies with a remote and proactive monitoring system that:
- Remotely checks the heath and status of the network on a continuous basis
- Detects any problems, issues or errors on the system – be it back-ups, disk space, printers or servers responsiveness etc. – before they arise
- Identifies areas for improvement
- Works to resolves potential problems there and then
This ensures that the system works to its full potential, operates with optimal availability and is maintained to a high standard – giving Colin and his team full visibility of how the network is running. This reduces the risk of downtime and disruption in lessons whilst delivering real value to staff and students alike.
Speaking about his experience so far, Colin explains, “This year will be the second year rollout of the managed service provision from Stone and it’s working really well. The fact that it covers both academies is fantastic.
“We have a number of virtual servers across both Skerne Park and Hummersknott Academy but have only had the monitoring software installed on key servers as it would be complete overkill! Additional servers are added as and when we need them. We get regular communication that lets us know the health and status of the network and that’s exactly what we were after. The whole thing just does exactly what it says on the tin – so to speak!
“I’m sure there’s more to it that we’ve not yet explored, but for now it does what we need it to and that’s all that matters. Obviously as time goes on and needs change, we’ll look into other areas of Stone’s managed service offering and see where else they can add benefit.”
Stone have also provided both academies with a number of refurbished PCs and monitors from the Encore range. Colin comments, “Over the past year or so, we’ve brought approximately 30 refurbished machines and monitors from Encore from Stone for student use. We’ve kitted out both academies with refurbished devices and it’s something we’ll continue to do. I didn’t want to buy brand new PCs for students as I didn’t want to have to face having to replace or repair them when students inevitably damaged them! Investing in refurbished devices therefore seemed like the most sensible option.
“As an aside to this, our continual budget constraints also meant that we should probably look for an alternative option to buying brand new equipment and the Encore service from Stone just fit the bill perfectly for that. We now have some really good student devices across the estates that have cost a fraction of the price of investing in new hardware and it all still does exactly what the students need them for. Allowing them to continue to develop their learning skills in an environment that’s fit for purpose.”
Our decision to choose Stone was an easy one – they could offer us what we wanted and supported us in our vision. But above all else, the level of dedicated service and support we received from John, Lee Anne and Andrew was second to none. To be totally honest it was the people that sold it for us. You know what they say – people buy people and we really bought into everyone who has helped us in this process. These guys are serious ambassadors for Stone and without them I don’t really know what the outcome of the tender would have been!
“I have no hesitation in recommending Stone. It’s absolutely been the correct decision for us – from meeting John, choosing Stone and implementing the managed service solution to the overall level of support offered. We have regular communication with everyone: they’re proactive, always on the ball, and they make life easier for us by researching what we want and coming back with a solution. They seriously tick all the boxes!
“The relationship is still relatively new but I have no doubt in my mind that this will be a relationship that lasts (well as long as they keep doing what they’re doing and don’t get rid of John that is!!).