Case Study: The Brook and the Willow

Joskos helps three SEN schools in Tottenham to revive their ICT infrastructure and overcome their technology 'pain points'

The Brook and the Willow

Background

Co-educational special needs school, The Brook Primary, The Willow Primary School and Riverside Special School in Tottenham needed a digital revival. The Brook and The Willow are two separate schools sharing the same building while Riverside Special School is a secondary school in a different location. All these organisations had been experiencing some major pain points with their managed IT services.

The schools’ managed services contract had been with one of the largest IT providers in education, yet lacked the tailored service required to make the technology work for each school’s different needs. Technology had become an obstacle rather than a tool and learning aid. Their managed services at the time were costing money and valuable teaching time due to the instability of the IT system, disruptions and avoidable IT problems. The proprietary system of their previous provider made it difficult to download new software and it became clear very quickly that they had been set up with inadequate storage space.

The Willow and The Brook formed a memorandum of agreement and entered into a contract with Joskos to manage its IT systems and changed its server and network system. Riverside’s network would then be changed and its IT managed services would be based on the school’s existing server and hardware. The brief was to provide a new server, which would work with existing desktops, printers, tablets and interactive white boards, while maintaining the same user interface across all systems – everything “had to remain the same” so staff would experience a seamless transition. The staff’s confidence with IT in education had fallen, due to a catalogue of disruptive issues previously, so Joskos was briefed to deliver a fully functional system for the start of the new term in September 2014, with a very short turn-around period. Duwan Farquharson, project leader at Willow, and Petra Herzig, project leader at Brook, both wanted to have a system in place which allowed for full collaboration and communication between two schools sharing the same premises.

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Method

Joskos conducted a full evaluation of the schools’ IT systems as well as current issues caused by the IT managed services in place. Joskos appointed an IT technician whose role would be full time preventative maintenance, ensuring that the schools not only experience 24/7 IT support, but were able to fully benefit from the IT resources.

The appointed technician, Aide, was on site to build the network itself, therefore completely familiar with the systems he now maintains. The main focus of the architecture of the new IT systems was the appearance of the schools’ ICT remaining the same from an end-user perspective to cause as little disruption as possible. With this in mind, technicians ensured that that the school leaders’ desktops were fully backed up before replacing the server.

Appointing the schools their own Joskos IT technician meant that Joskos understood the day to day needs of the different schools, including the flexibility needed, the security, different software, and how the IT is used on a practical level. As two different schools would be sharing the same premises and IT equipment, it was essential to understand how the IT would be used day to day.

Results

Since the start of term, the Brook and the Willow have experienced no instability, restoring both the staff’s confidence in IT and their valuable time. With services dedicated to maintenance and enhancing the staff and students’ use of IT, the schools have experienced a much higher ROI from their managed services, quantifiable by the added value provided by the new IT system. With a more stable network, day to day tasks from asset management to room booking are much more efficient. Costs are also kept down thanks to a better monitoring system of IT use throughout the school. Instead of using the allocated hours of support to fix preventable issues on an ad hoc basis, those hours can be used to enhance the schools’ use of IT instead, thanks to the focus on ongoing preventative maintenance.

Joskos’ success, according to Farquharson and Herzig, “is its people”; appointing the right engineer for the job means that the schools are able to use IT as a useful teaching, communication and administration tool. Importantly, the changing needs of each school are met with professional efficiency. Aide’s knowledge of the IT systems is equalled by his understanding of the teachers and different school leaders’ requirements and how to respond to issues from any location.

Furthermore, staff satisfaction has been measured at 90%, according to internal surveys conducted by Farquharson, with each teacher completing a checklist of requirements and commenting on any issues experienced at the start of the autumn term. Teachers are now empowered to teach by technology, rather than disrupted by it, even using tablets as a learning aid in classrooms.