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October 2013

Trusted partner Viglen allows Alperton School to focus on achieving positive outcomes for pupils

The Importance of Trust. Alperton Community School is a large secondary school with specialist status for Maths and Computing. The use of ICT pervades every aspect of the school at all levels, so having a reliable ICT supplier is vitally important.

Having an ICT supplier which it can trust entirely means that the school can focus all its efforts and teaching resources on enhancing the learning experience and achieving positive outcomes for pupils.
Alperton is a truly dynamic, outstanding and special school. With more than 1400 pupils drawn from the diverse community around Wembley in north-west London, the school faces tremendous challenges in terms of meeting the different needs of pupils from very different backgrounds on a daily basis. Split over two sites, the school plays an important role in the local community. It provides support to parents and carers through a family learning programme and community access and has strong links with nearby primary schools.

Setting High Standards

From the moment children enter the school at the age of 11, right up to the day they leave, aged 16 or 18, pupils have every opportunity to learn about and experience digital technologies, because it is an integral part of their education. The pupils can work towards a number of different recognised IT qualifications but, more importantly, they are encouraged at every step of the way to gain real confidence in technology, to prepare them to play a full and active role in the dynamic information-centric society of the future. The school has a solid reputation, not least for its excellent ICT facilities. It consistently achieves good results at both GCSE and A-level and the most recent Ofsted inspection, in May 2011, rated Alperton as ‘Outstanding’ — the highest grading and one that has only been achieved by 12% of schools nationwide.

Providing IT Excellence Across the School

“We have computers and projectors in every classroom and most rooms also have interactive whiteboards. We make use of IT to enhance teaching and learning experiences, to mange registrations, to record and assess pupil behaviour and achievements and to plan and schedule lessons. IT is at the heart of everything we do at Alperton and it underpins the efficient running of the school”, says Pan Niranjan, IT Network and MIS Manager at Alperton.
In total, Alperton has 80 classrooms across its two sites. There are more than 650 desktop computers, located in a number of dedicated IT suites and other classrooms. The school also has seven laptop trolleys, each equipped with 16 computers (making 112 laptops in total). In addition to these resources, the school also has its own server cluster, comprising three physical servers running more than 15 virtual machines and its own storage area network. This provides mirroring to storage resources on the second site and complete disaster recovery contingency for the school.

Managing all these computers, keeping them up to date, equipped with the right software, secure and in full working order, is what keeps Pan and his team of four technicians occupied day-to-day. While they can deal with most of the everyday IT support and maintenance needs of the school, it’s also vitally important to have a supplier that can be trusted and relied upon when help is needed.

How Alperton and Viglen work Together

Almost all of the computers in use at Alperton today have been provided by Viglen, which has been the school’s primary supplier of IT systems and service for more than 12 years. What started as a simple customer-supplier relationship has, over the years, developed into a strong partnership between the two organisations, with Viglen providing 90 percent of the school’s needs in terms of PCs, servers, software and network architecture.
The school refreshes 20 percent of its PCs every year, running systems over a five year lifecycle. Reliability is therefore hugely important; as Viglen manufacturers its own PCs, it confidently provides a five-year warranty on the systems it builds for Alperton. Around 120 new PCs were recently provided by Viglen to replace systems that had reached the end of their life.
“From time to time, the school has experimented with other suppliers”, says Pan, but has always reverted to Viglen. “We have shopped around and looked at other suppliers in the past but we always go back to Viglen. We like its PCs, it always gives us good value and it is thoroughly reliable. The warranty cover is very good too and, if anything goes wrong, Viglen is always here next day.”
This has led to a strong bond being built up between Alperton and the Viglen team. When the school has a new project to investigate, Pan always asks Viglen to come in and discuss what’s required at an early stage. As well as working with the school on new projects and providing day-to-day support, Viglen also manages the school’s Microsoft licensing agreement and various other software licenses, including Viglen’s ClassLink software. This is used by teachers to manage pupils’ access to resources and to enable remote leaning. Alperton started on version 2 of the software; today it is on version 10. Pan says, “It’s very easy to use and the remote control and classroom management features are really useful. It makes life a lot easier as it gives you control of what’s going on. The teachers love it.”

Achieving Positive Outcomes

Pan says “We have confidence in Viglen and we have a good relationship. We have regular meetings with the sales manager to discuss our needs. When we need help, if we want a particular engineer to come and work on a project, Viglen always tries to make them available.”
The personal relationships that have been built-up over the years means that Pan and his team can always be sure that they get looked after by technicians who know the school and its systems and they way it likes to work, as well as the staff personally. “It’s a very healthy working relationship, and together we can get the work done”, says Pan.
He also knows he can rely on Viglen’s technical prowess and professional project management capabilities, too. “When, some years ago, the school implemented a major upgrade to its network and Windows desktops, the whole project was completed without any downtime, even though it was started during term time”, explained Pan.
When the school wanted to make use of virtualisation to cut the size of its data centre, it entrusted Viglen to provide the servers and manage the entire project. The VMware solution was implemented without a hitch and today, Alperton has a fullyresilient infrastructure and, in the event of the main site becoming unavailable or suffering a power outage or major fault, the backup server can be switched on at a moment’s notice. This is very reassuring for everyone — and enhances the school’s reputation as a specialist in computing even further. “For Alperton, the real benefit of working with Viglen is the assurance that it can always be relied upon”, says Pan.

“Having a reliable supplier is so important to the school. You don’t want things going wrong but when they do, you want prompt and professional service. Technically, Viglen is always one step ahead as well. Its hardware and the infrastructure it has set up here is really solid, and we have the reassurance and peace of mind of a five-year warranty.
It’s advice is always good and we can trust the team entirely. Viglen never lets us down in any way.”
Pan Niranjan
Alperton School, IT Network and MIS Manager
“There’s strong evidence linking the use of technology in schools to improvements in learning and outcomes for pupils. Schools like Alperton, with a well-developed vision and well managed use of technology, are undoubtedly giving their pupils the best possible start as they prepare for their 21st century working lives.”
Bordan Tkachuk
Viglen CEO