Background

The JCB Academy is the first of a new concept of school in the UK. They offer 14-19 year old students the opportunity to take a technically-oriented, full-time course of study. They specialise in subjects that require technical and modern equipment – for example, at the Academy they deliver a high-quality engineering education that incorporates the use of both IT and business skills. The JCB Academy is supported by Staffordshire, Loughborough, and Cambridge Universities, amongst others.

 

The JCB Academy’s curriculum and learning techniques are unique. By integrating technical and vocational elements with the national curriculum, students can use state of the art facilities to put learning into practice. Students at The JCB Academy start at the age of 14, studying the basic GCSE subjects of Maths, English, Science and ICT, alongside more modern, hands-on learning experiences. With the focus being on vocational application of skills, students are also given financial training and taught how to set up a business. Nevertheless, this progressive 21st century approach to education has some very traditional values at its heart; the academy places huge emphasis on self-discipline, good behaviour and team work.

Situation

Interactive technology is at the heart of learning at The JCB Academy. Each student is provided with a laptop for their own use, and with a wireless network extending across the entire campus, much of the learning makes use of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). After students receive their personalised learning device in Year 10, they keep them throughout their time at the Academy. By the time they reach Year 13, the laptops are 4 years old with heavy student usage and need replacing. The JCB Academy annually go out to tender for 200 laptops as part of their 1:1 scheme so that each new intake of Year 10 students are provided with new, high-quality devices.

 

By the time that Dan Tooth joined the Academy as their Senior Technician, the 1:1 scheme had already been running for two years. Although the first cycle of laptops were procured through Stone, the latter involved a different vendor who did not meet the technician’s expectations. Dan comments, “When I began working at The JCB Academy, they had experienced nightmare service from the laptop vendor the previous year. Prior to this, the Academy had worked with Stone, and their tailored service had set the bar high.” Dan has now been at the school for just over two years. In the aftermath of the unsatisfactory service, he has chosen Stone as the preferred supplier on both occasions. Stone have now supplied laptops to three year groups at the Academy overall.

 

In relation to the Academy’s specific device requirements, Dan explains, “In a laptop, we were looking for a combination of things. Most importantly, a lot of the engineering work that the students complete on their devices needs a certain spec in order for it to work effectively. We generally require at least an Intel® Core™ i3 processor or equivalent, although, for the spec, we’re not too fussed in terms of brand. The performance is more important. We need to be able to install our software onto the laptops; everything from 3D design software, to Office, to Adobe Creative Suite.”

Solution

To meet their requirements, The JCB Academy go out to tender every year to find the most suitable and up-to-date device for their new students. After being dissatisfied by the other hardware provider, Dan’s team of technicians had a few companies showcase their current range of devices. Among these was Stone, a supplier known by The JCB Academy to provide exceptional service. Out of all of the companies that presented, only two were able to offer the Academy the specification that they required; out of the two remaining, only Stone could also supply the appropriate size. According to Dan, “Their laptops came in at a very competitive price. In the end, the Acer devices proved to offer the perfect blend of value and performance.”

 

Stone were able to provide The JCB Academy with 200 of the Acer TravelMate B113 commercial notebooks. The TravelMate B113 was the perfect choice for the Academy for a number of reasons. As a company committed to delivering high-quality devices to students, Acer have designed the slim and powerful notebook with the aim of making learning a more engaging experience. Slender yet robust, it is an excellent everyday learning companion, fitting into students’ backpacks without weighing them down and outfitted with a Windows 8.1 operating system.

 

Its six-cell battery can achieve more than seven hours of battery life, so students can avoid needing to recharge in the classroom where only a few power outlets are available.

 

The notebook is designed to meet the needs of school IT departments as well as students, as an easy to manage, budget-friendly product. It comes outfitted with Acer ProShield Manager, a suite of essential security and management tools, allowing IT managers to protect critical data.

Acer’s B113 was for the ideal fit for The JCB Academy because it matched their required spec exactly. JCB needed their wide scope of design software to function seamlessly on the laptops; this is catered for by the notebook’s performance – powered by Intel® Core™ i3 processor.

 

Portability was also key for the Academy, making the TravelMate B113’s 11.6” ComfyView display a highly valued feature. The screen also has an anti-glare matte surface, reducing mirror-like reflections and improving viewing in the bright light that classrooms are notorious for.

 

Commenting on the practical benefits of the 1:1 Acer laptop scheme, Dan says, “The main benefit we’ve noticed is that marking is so much easier when it’s digital, because a lot of students tend to struggle with their handwriting. Having the laptops also means that they can jump straight on and pick up where they left off with their work, rather than wasting time hunting through pages and pages of disorganised writing.

 

“I assume that the next tender will follow a similar spec, because of how successful the scheme has been so far. In the future, we may explore the possibility of a more up to date processor or better battery life, but the choice comes down to cost more than anything else – and Stone and Acer delivered supreme value for us with no compromise on quality.”

After our previous experience, one of the key things we were looking for in a vendor was good service and support. The service we’ve received from Stone has been incomparable. Their engineers come on site so we get the benefit of speaking to them in person, and we can tell them exactly what is wrong. Having a single point of contact with our account manager as well means that they have developed an excellent understanding of our exact needs and requirements – they then work efficiently to meet them as best they can. This sort of experience adds so much more value to the already-competitive pricing.

Our relationship with Stone has been strengthened even further because they have consistently provided a very speedy service, making the deployment of new kit a much less time-consuming process. Basically, the support is brilliant, and we are proud to have chosen Stone as our supplier.

— Dan Tooth, Senior Technician