Situated in Jesmond, Newcastle Prep School (NPS) is the only independent preparatory school in Tyneside. The school prides itself on providing a warm, caring environment for children aged 3 – 11, and encourages students to experience both academic and extra-curricular success by developing their confidence and self-esteem.
NPS is a forward-looking school, keen to explore new resources, methods of teaching and learning opportunities for its 265 pupils. Richard Boddy teaches Computing and is also responsible for looking after the school’s IT needs.
“Our school’s servers are located off site and maintained by an external company,” said Richard. “We were looking to reduce the number of servers we needed by moving to a cloud-based system, as well as reviewing our volume licensing with Microsoft.”
Richard is part of a Computing teachers’ group originally set up by the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), an association which represents 670 preparatory schools.
A colleague from the IAPS recommended he got in touch with Stone Group who, as a Microsoft Gold Partner, has achieved the highest accreditation in Microsoft’s sought after partnership program.
Additionally, while discussing their Microsoft migration with Stone, Richard also mentioned how the school’s white boards – which were between 10 – 12 years old – were coming to their end of life.
The school were planning on slowly replacing the old white boards with new interactive touchscreens to modernise the classrooms, however, with budgets an issue, this was going to be a long and costly process.
One of Stone’s software specialists visited Richard at the school to discuss his requirements and advise on the options available. Stone recommended that the school migrate from Microsoft Volume Licensing to Microsoft 365, which would help them transition to the cloud-based Office 365 while also offering a number of other valuable solutions.
On a back office administrative level, this meant that NPS no longer needed its off-site data exchange server as data was now cloud-based. And rather than having separate licensing and bills, everything would be rolled into a single comprehensive, cost-effective package that’s much less hassle to manage.
The M365 solution considerably enhanced user experiences within the school. Richard said: “We love the fact that everything is now under ‘one roof’ when it comes to IT. Microsoft 365 combines all the favourites such as Windows 10, Office 365 and Minecraft: Education Edition for example, but also has some fabulous new features including a seamless IT process with one single sign on as well as Teams, which we have all embraced and would not be without.”
Tools in Office 365 allow team members to co-create and share lessons and resources with their colleagues in a single, easy-to-use platform and students can learn to collaborate with each other in real-time on school projects. The immersive Minecraft: Education Edition provides teaching staff with a unique approach to delivering engaging and practical lessons in Classics, English, History and more, and helps students develop their creativity and memorise new information to enhance the way they learn.
Importantly, with automatic updates of the latest security features and enterprise-grade manageability that’s included in Windows 10, the school can be rest assured they are providing a safe, easy-to-monitor digital learning space for all students and staff.
In addition to enhancing the digital learning environment, Stone wanted to help improve the classroom set-up by supporting the update of their whiteboards. Stone suggested Richard consider installing Viewsonic ViewBoard interactive panels instead of the more expensive alternative they were currently using – not only did they offer the same service, they came in at less than half the price. Richard was keen to know more, and so Stone arranged a video conference demonstration of the products with Viewsonic.
“I didn’t know a great deal about these particular interactive panels and so it was really helpful to see a demonstration,” said Richard. “Prior to the demo, I had asked staff to let me have their queries and questions and I had a long list to get through. We wanted to know how they differed from our existing kit, how easy they were to use and set up and what the similarities were, to what we had now.
“Stone and Viewsonic were very patient and were happy to answer these points in great detail and it was apparent these panels were the right solution for the school. Essentially, there was nothing they couldn’t do that the more expensive touchscreens could – in fact the screens even did a bit more – and of course the price was the clincher.”
It would have taken the school up to four years to be able to afford to replace the old boards, but with Stone’s affordable yet effective solution, the remaining white boards could be replaced all at once.
NPS is comprised of three Victorian buildings and many of the classrooms have built in chimney breasts. This meant the heavy interactive boards could not be safely mounted on the wall. Stone had to find a solution and managed to source heavy duty stands for the 65 inch, 4K interactive boards which they had to have especially drilled. It was important that the boards fitted properly into the classrooms to ensure effective implementation as well as to meet all health and safety requirements.
Richard requested the boards to be fitted during school holidays to minimise disruption. Stone’s engineers were happy to accommodate, taking less than a week to install them and even working over the weekend to ensure everything was up and running in time for the beginning of term.
“The staff really like the new Viewsonic equipment,” said Richard. “They are easy and intuitive to use and because they have their own inbuilt Android system, all the staff have to do is switch it on while they take the register – they don’t even have to switch on their own computer. It also provides great flexibility, anyone can log in once in any classroom to pull up their personal work and data.”
Now that Richard has been introduced to Stone and the wide range of services, products and expertise they can offer, he now buys a number of other pieces of hardware from them, including laptops and desktops.
Richard adds: “I am really pleased that Stone was recommended to me by an education sector colleague – now I am happy to recommend their services to others.”
Thanks to Stone recommending this equipment, our school has been able to update our interactive boards much faster than planned.
Our Stone account managers are always happy to answer queries and their expertise and knowledge is impressive.
Stone engineers were just fantastic – even happy to work at weekends to meet our requirements
Richard Boddy, Computing Teacher and IT Manager