As a school that believes in lifelong learning, Whitcliffe Mount prides itself on providing a rewarding and enjoyable education experience for all. Their teaching practices aim to equip their students with the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to make informed choices about their future.
Supporting teaching and learning through the use of technology is a central focus for Whitcliffe Mount School and they believe that providing the right tools can assist in teaching a broad, balanced and inclusive curriculum to the highest possible standards.
Heidi Newburn, Business Manager at Whitcliffe Mount strongly believes in providing the best technology possible to aid the educational experience and assist in improving teaching and learning.
However, having started at the school early last year, she soon realised that there were cracks in the existing IT provision and they were starting to impact the delivery of education.
Speaking about the situation she was faced with, Heidi explains, “From outdated hardware, ancient AV and an infrastructure that was so old it was causing issues and network problems left, right and centre – I knew things needed to change.
“I’m a great believer in enhancing collaboration and interaction in class and providing a more immersive education for students and teachers alike. Unfortunately, the IT on offer at Whitcliffe just wasn’t allowing for this and from then I knew things needed to be refreshed and updated.”
Set to move to a new build in Summer 2017, the Senior Leadership Team made the decision to make moves towards future proofing the new build by investing in a new technology infrastructure that would help take teaching and learning to the next level.
Speaking about this further, she explains, “Our server infrastructure was seriously outdated. We’d got dozens of physical and virtual servers that were causing issues across the entire network and really impacting the classroom environment and our teachers’ ability to get things prepared for lessons. We were also noticing a real inability to get direct access both in and out of school. It really wasn’t ideal.
“Add to that the fact that the AV that was being used hadn’t been updated in years! For me this was one key area that needed investment – particularly given that we wanted to encourage students to interact more in class and become more immersed in the learning experience. How can you do that when you’re running outdated technology and software?
“I also wanted to be able to integrate our AV solutions with devices to encourage students to get more involved in what was going on, find answers for themselves, work together and really help provoke a deeper sense of learning.
“As well as this though, we needed a new solution that meant teachers could see the impact of what they were doing too and reflect on how the lessons had gone. If our teachers can’t see the benefit of something, how are they expected to deliver a better learning experience for our students? The better the device, the better the AV, the better teachers can teach and students can learn. For me it was that simple.”
Having got to a point where they knew what they wanted to do, the head teacher and another colleague headed to the BETT show to help finalise that decision and pinpoint exactly what they needed and who could help them achieve their vision.
Talking about this a little more, Heidi comments: “As a school, this whole school transformation project was a huge decision for us to make and as we were investing a substantial amount of money and resource into it we needed to make sure we got it right.
“Even though we weren’t due to move to the new build until 2017, I wanted to get as much as possible in place so that we could iron out any issues that might crop up to ensure a smooth transition when we moved over.”
After looking at various options and solutions available, Heidi started getting quotes together from a number of vendors. And after thorough analysis, the school chose Stone as their partner of choice to help with their transformation project.
Speaking about this further, Heidi explains, “We’d built up a strong relationship with Stone very quickly during this process – from first meeting them at BETT to getting a quote back from them. For me, that relationship was key. They were very honest about what they could do and understood what we wanted to achieve in terms of educational impact and outcomes and that just made the decision to work with them a lot easier. For me, it wasn’t just about the solution they’d proposed, it was how I felt about working with them and I had such a positive feeling that they could do what we were asking for. I have no doubt in my mind they were definitely the right choice for Whitcliffe Mount.”
The solution that Stone put together for the school to help transform the delivery of education combines a complete IT lifecycle management service – from end user computing, AV and server infrastructure to support and IT asset disposal. Allowing the school to focus on equipping their students for the future without being impacted by outdated tech.
Speaking about this further, Heidi comments, “The entire solution that Stone put together for us was brilliant. Particularly in terms of the server infrastructure, which was key in making sure everything we wanted worked seamlessly together. From the moment they introduced the Stone Integrum, I truly believed in its technical ability and capability. Our previous solution consisted of dozens of physical and virtual servers and it just wasn’t working. The Stone Integrum combines all that and more – in a single core infrastructure appliance. We wanted a solution that would provide us with the capabilities we needed to run the network effectively and that wouldn’t need any additions further down the line and the Integrum offered us just that.
“Whilst it’s still very early days to notice any significant benefits, it’s started to make a huge difference to how technology is used in and around the school. We’ve noticed an improvement in the classroom environment in that we’re experiencing less network issues and it’s definitely having a positive impact on the learning and working experience for everyone around the school.
“As well as this though, it’s allowing us to future proof what we want to do further down the line. So much so we’re even considering going down the BYOD route when move next year.
“Stone have supplied us with a number of PCs – including desktops, which are predominantly used as teacher devices in the classroom, and a mix of Stonebooks and tablets across the school for student use. This has opened up a host of opportunities for us – particularly in terms of mobile devices and BYOD and I’m excited to see where this goes next year.”
The AV provision that Stone have also deployed into the school has also started to see huge improvements in enhancing classroom collaboration. Heidi comments, “The new SMART boards we have in place around the school are brilliant! Before I made the decision to go with these interactive boards though I wanted to get the teachers to demo them first to make sure they were comfortable with the tech and could integrate it into their lessons. Needless to say – the teachers loved them. We’ve had roughly 30 installed into the classrooms across the school and have seen nothing but positive outcomes since doing it.
“For a start – students can actually see content on the board from wherever they are in the classroom, which was a major issue for us before – especially when the sun was shining! We have an interactive solution that now just works and that teachers are able to use far more effectively than the projectors we previously had in place. Above all else – and this is the major thing for me – it’s impacting the way our students are learning. It’s improving interaction within the class, and students are becoming more involved and engaged in lessons. They’re actually wanting to get up and use the boards and share content with their peers and it’s starting to provide a better level of learning. This was exactly what I wanted to achieve and I’m so pleased we now have a solution in place that’s allowing us to do this. Again, whislt it’s still early days the only way is up!”
As part of the overall managed service, the school also have a five year third line support package in place which consists of online and telephone support should they need any technical assistance with hardware, AV or the network. Speaking about this further, Heidi explains, “We had a similar sort of support package before, which didn’t actually work very well so I was a bit sceptical at first. But given our Network Manager had left, I knew we needed some level of support in place. The support we now have in place from Stone is working well for us and gives us pieve of mind that we have someone to call to help.
To complete the entire IT lifecycle management – Stone also assist Whitcliffe Mount with the disposal of their end of life IT equipment, providing them with a safe and secure method of disposing outdated hardware. Commenting on this, Heidi explains, “Stone provide us with a complete managed service – from PCs and AV to infrastructure, support and also recycling too – it’s the complete package. Being able to dispose of our outdated tech in a secure, safe and complaint way is a top priority for us and knowing Stone can do this for us is fantastic.”
With the transformation project now in full swing, Whitcliffe Mount are utilising the new technology to provide an enjoyable educational experience for staff and teachers alike. Summing up the project, Heidi comments, “The new technology we have in place will go a long way towards enabling our end goals. We’ve already seen some incredible improvements and it can only become more of a positive experience as it progresses further and we make the move over to our new build next year.”
Working with Stone has been an incredible experience and is a relationship I hope develops further. They believed in what we wanted to achieve from the very beginning and put together a solution for us that went that extra mile and has given us opportunities we didn’t really imagine were possible before.
I’ve said from the beginning that my aim was to improve the teaching and learning experience across the school and we now have the provisions in place that can allow us to do exactly that. Not only that – it’s also opening up more opportunities for future projects to really enhance the delivery of education and ensure that we enhance this experience for everyone with the right tools and technology.
I wanted to be able to enhance collaboration and interaction in class and provide a more immersive education for everyone. With the help of Stone – I now believe this is possible.
So far, this has been a great experience and long may it continue.