In 2001 the Government launched the Academies programme. The idea was simple, take an underperforming school and transform it into a centre of educational excellence. This would be achieved through, among other things, placing first class state-of-the-art ICT solutions at the core of the new Academies. Stepping forward to support this ambitious programme the United Leaning Trust (ULT) has to date invested in excess of £90 million and is now the largest single sponsor of Academies in the UK.
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As part of their investment and improvement programme, ULT is constantly refreshing the networking solutions in its Academies and schools across the UK. Viglen, the Hertfordshire based Academies specialist, has won the last seven ULT projects with an innovative mix of leading edge and cost effective networking solutions. More than 1,000 users per academy now use Viglen designed and implemented, industry-leading local area networks (LANs) to securely access cutting-edge educational resources and services.
The United Learning Trust (ULT) was established in 2002 and is now the largest single sponsor of independently managed specialist state schools and Academies in the UK. The organisation has 15 Academies and 10 schools in areas with some of the worst deprivation index scores in the country, and welcomes students regardless of faith, background or ability. ULT is a subsidiary of the United Church Schools Trust (UCST) — a leading education charity in the UK. Founded in 1883, UCST has a long and distinguished tradition in the provision of independent education and boarding.
As a key part of their Academy programme ULT urgently needed to run major ICT renewal projects in no less than seven of its academies. In each case, they required a layered core-to-edge LAN, offering a high level of resilience and with the ability to support both wireless and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). The network needed to support the existing Cisco VoIP solution. ULT also wanted to improve the ease of management of their networks as this was proving an onerous task for the IT staff.
ULT, like many other educational establishments, also required the flexibility of wireless networking in order to be able to access the network from any area of the school campus — for example, when registering pupil attendance on the sports-fi eld at the beginning of games lessons.
Approved educational suppliers were invited to tender for the ICT renewal projects in the seven Academies. ULT was impressed by the value for money demonstrated by the proposed Viglen network solution. “The solution was substantially cheaper than the original Cisco proposal and, with the money that has been saved, Paddington Academy were able to provide additional equipment that directly affects the teaching and learning in the classroom ... Viglen has installed 3Com networks in ULT’s next three academy projects, all with the same high level of success.” explains James Garnett, Lead ICT Projects Executive for ULT.
The Viglen Academies Team proposed a stackable 3Com solution, with resilient links, which came in at a very competitive price. The associated installation, confi guration and support costs were also lower due the simplicity of the solution which significantly lowered the projected total cost of ownership for each network.
Each of the seven ULT Academies (Paddington, Walthamstow, Sheffield Springs, Sheffield Park, Stockport and Barnsley Academies and William HuIme Grammar School) now use a Viglen designed and implemented next-generation LAN based on 3Com switches and wireless technology. Paddington Academy has a fully converged network with 3Com VCX IP telephony while, at the other six, Viglen have integrated the 3Com network with the existing Cisco Call Manager VoIP solution to provide seamlessly converged data and voice communications.
An average of 1,200 staff and pupils per academy now use an industry-leading core-to-edge networking solution to securely access ULT’s advanced educational resources and services. The design of the network allows for easy expansion should any Academy require greater capacity, or wish to introduce more sophisticated applications and services in the future.
“Currently, I don’t see the need for an expensive 10Gb solution,” says Garnett. “1Gb bandwidth is suffi cient for our current needs, but it will be easy to upgrade to 10Gb if and when this becomes necessary” says James.
Each academy uses different applications to meet their pupils’ needs, all of which are supported by their new networks. For example, Barnsley Academy utilises IPTV so that every class can watch the same live or recorded broadcasts simultaneously on digital display screens in their classrooms. Paddington Academy, a centre of excellence for fi lm, TV and gaming which has links with BAFTA and GamesAid, use Macs as well as PCs on their network for their bandwidth-hungry media work.
When asked about the new network solutions Viglen had implemented James Garnett replied ”...we’re not paying for huge amounts of functionality we don’t need. We don’t need high-end chassis that physically take up room and are expensive and hard to manage. The 3Com Switch’s are stackable, manageable, configurable and relatively easy to use. And they provide higher configurable and relatively easy to use. And they provide higher erformance than other equivalently priced products.”