The Swinton High School - Fully Managed Service

The Swinton High School, an 11-16 comprehensive, was the first Converter Academy in Salford in 2011. The site is a mixture of old and new buildings, and with over £3.3m invested over the last few years it now boasts some of the best learning facilities in the area.

The school has approximately 750 pupils between the ages of 11 and 16 years, and 90 staff. Their pupils are drawn mainly from the Swinton, Clifton, Pendlebury and Wardley areas of Salford. However, it is worth noting that over 1:3 of their pupils are from out of the immediate catchment area. This is a recent phenomenon reflecting their increasing popularity and is directly related to their growing reputation and improving exam results.

The Problem

In autumn 2014 the Swinton High School started looking for alternatives to their existing BSF ICT Managed Service provision. Challenges the school faced included poor connectivity, slow network and ageing. This had resulted in poor reliability and resulting lack of confidence in IT by the teaching staff.

The school had started a procurement exercise and gone out to tender for a new provider, and Think IT were invited to respond.

In our meetings with the school it was clearly set out that the school wanted an IT service that delivered their ambitions for the future, including to: 

  • Develop an educational cloud solution
  • Provide the ability to be able adopt/adapt to changing needs for pupil roll and pedagogy
  • Attract more pupils from the surrounding feeder schools
  • Maximise the use of the schools existing IT investments

In addition, the school required the new solution to deliver the following:

  1. Confidence that all of the schools users could access their work quicklyand securely
  2. Confidence the new solution would provide a robust solution that supported the teaching and learning requirements for all of its staff and pupils
  3. A good data storage solution to suit all the needs of the school, its staff and pupils
  4. Support the teachers to deliver first class innovative pedagogy
  5. Support teachers' time management
  6. A pro‐active IT support desk.
  7. A non complex approach to any change of service requirements
  8. Cost predictability over the life of the contract
  9. A change management programme to support and promote the change that the school would need to go through
  10. Reliable broadband provision

Swinton made no apologies for being a demanding client - they wanted the best.

The Solution

Based on the requirements, Think IT pulled together a group of 7 partners and proposed a solution involving the following 10 key elements:

1. Virtual Desktop

Students and teachers able to connect to a virtual desktop containing all of their school data and personal productivity tools (e.g. Word, Excel) at any time via any internet enabled device. This gives staff and students more freedom of choice and flexibility in the way they teach and learn. It also enables the configuration of old PCs and laptops to ‘thin client’, extending their life from 3 to up to 8 years, at the same time as performing faster with reduced power consumption, saving the school money.

2. Storage

4TB of shared storage, teachers with 15GB and pupils 2GB each.  (After the proposal was submitted, the school requested an additional 4TB for their large digital media collection. The additional storage was provided at no additional charge)

3. Single Sign On and Airhead

Sign in once through the secure portal to access your personalised desktop using Airhead.  This gives access to all the school web-based applications and resources any time, any where and on any device.  Airhead also provides the platform for collaboration, delivering new pedagogies and improved teaching and learning.

4. Email

O365 configured to ensure single sign­‐on as well as account synchronisation so that whether internally within the school or connecting to email remotely from any device, the same standard set of user credentials are utilised and are only entered once.

5. Classroom Management

Allows teachers to control exactly what tools and applications pupils can use in class. Licence Management features share licences across devices,cutting costs. The remote network control features enable a centralised resource to identify and fix problems, change admin rights and change passwords remotely without having to run around the school.

6. E-Safety

Powerful E-safety features that block websites and applications, capture screen shots of violations and keep up to date with the latest directories of banned sites and keywords.

7. Mobile Device Management

Control mobile devices including laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Block, manage and monitor usage to ensure only authorised applications and websites are used through the school's filtered network. Control security such as passwords, lock stolen devices and block cameras. Puts control of devices in the hands of the school and the parents.

8. Connectivity

100/100Mb broadband connection with web filtering, including access to the NEN schools online learning content.

9. Change Management

Change Management is about managing the softer ‘people’ side of project and programmes, including:

-Supporting the school to define the outcomes it wants  for students, staff, parents and governors

-Developing plans to deliver those outcomes, including identifying the specific changes that need to take place, who needs to be involved and what training and support they will need

-Identifying the key messages, stakeholders and communication methods required to engage everyone affected by the change programme

-Identify the Change Champions within the school community who can help drive the change, the blockers and challenges they will face and what help and support they will need to overcome those blockers

10. Service Desk

The Think IT Service Desk is a single point of contact for all of our solutions, available from  08.00 - 17.00 Monday-Friday excluding Public Holidays. 

Think IT presented their solution to the staff, Governors and pupils in January 2015. The school also interviewed 4 other national and local providers.  After negotiations and clarifications on detail, in March Think IT were officially appointed as the new ICT managed service provider for The Swinton High School.

The video below is of Paul Tuner, Assistant Headteacher, explaining why they chose Think IT.

Work began immediately in order to get new infrastructure installed and solutions up and running so that they could be tested and staff trained before the summer holidays. This involved close cooperation with key members of the schools staff at all stages to ensure that the inevitable problems that occurred were dealt with promptly and effectively.

After two months of parallel running, the new solution went live at the start of the new school year in September 2015. There were no significant issues and the switchover was considered a success.

The Benefits

The school now has any time, anywhere, any device access to all of its applications and data, inside and outside of school and are happy with the new service.  The Think IT solution has laid the platform for improved teaching and learning in the school.

Importantly at a time of squeezed budgets, the school have a fixed price contract for their fully managed service through to 2019.

Perhaps more importantly, they now have a partner they can rely on when things go wrong, as they often will with technology. As an example, in November the Head arrived at the school at 07:30 to find the system down, just as the first Ofsted inspector arrived.  Because of his relationship with Think IT, he was able to make one call, outside of the specified service level, and the service was back up and running by 8:15 before most people, including Ofsted, even knew there was a problem (the problem was caused by an overnight change to the JANET network ans was outside of Think IT's control). When Neil Watkins from Think IT called the Head that afternoon to check everything was working as expected, Mr Harrison never even mentioned the problem, he was more delighted because the school were rated as Good in every area by the Inspectors.

I'm happy - you did what you said you would do

Mr M. Harrison, Headteacher

Think IT Partners involved in this project: