Pay Attention Class

Pay Attention Class

Sir William Perkins School in Surrey where SpliceCom reseller Converged Solutions installed an innovative XML based voicemail system for teachers to track messages as well as a remote teaching video conferencing system running via two 64kbps circuits through the SpliceCom maximiser, which enables more ‘fringe’ subjects to be taught within the school. Finally, and this is a big issue for all schools, for pupil security, the staff can also ‘dial in’ to CCTV cameras placed around the school from any location to see what is going on.”

With four kids of his own, editor Ian Hunter knows a bit about the education sector and reports back on the opportunities for resellers.

One of the great things about working from home is that I get to see more of what is going on with my kids education – albeit that my wife not only knows far more than me about what is happening on a day to day basis she actually remembers who’s doing what. Together my wife and I have been doing the dreaded school run since 1990 and expect to make our final junior school trip in the summer of 2008. I’ve already had a word with the headmaster and expect to receive some sort of long service award.

In the 16 years so far of our making the four mile round trip each day I can safely say that we have seen a lot of changes just by walking around the schools; 1990 was pre- Dunblane and security for children was not so hot a day to day issue then, interclass room communication was rudimentary if available at all and the there was no IT department.

Today in the fifty yard walk from the school entrance to my daughter’s peg where she hangs her coat and lunch box I nonchalantly walk past more technology than landed man on the moon in 1969. Bearing in mind this is a regular state school, there is an interactive electronic white board with overhead VGA projector, several networked PC’s and printers loaded up with educational software in each room – the school has a separate IT room for pupils.

Moving up to secondary school not only increases the number of available PC’s per pupil but also puts ICT firmly on the curriculum. My youngest son (13 years) had a day off school last month as he had a bug of some sort.We nagged him to get on with some school work as he was not exactly incapacitated and later found him in the playroom logged on to the Hampshire

schools network downloading his own work files, updating them and saving them back to his secure personal workspace on his school network. My fifteen year old son looked over my shoulder as I was at my PC the other day and asked if I was modelling my workload for the coming issue and could he help as I was swearing at the computer. Good grief! Sixth Form College ups the ante even more and universities are kitted out for IT better than NASA in a bad budget year.

OK, so what’s the point? Yes, kids are getting fatter because they are on their backsides staring Pay Attention Class With four kids of his own, editor Ian Hunter knows a bit about the education sector and reports back on the opportunities for resellers. at screens too much (thankfully not mine – they like sport and Mrs Hunter makes Jamie Oliver’s school dinners look unhealthy – you sense correctly I am earning brownie points here). No, the point is that someone is selling the education sector all that kit and why isn’t it you?

 

Initiatives

Kelly Macmillan, Public Sector Specialist at Mitel told us, “The UK education sector is a rapidly growing market in which we see a huge opportunity. We’ve had considerable success in the US primary and secondary education market, where our customers include Chicago Board of Schools and New York City Schools, and that trend is continuing in the UK.

As a result Mitel is planning serious penetration of the UK market and has invested in a high touch sales person, Russell Parr, who is dedicated to the sector. His role is to lead the education portfolio and work closely with key channel partners to ensure their success in the education market.

One of the key drivers behind schools’ adoption of new technology is the Government’s Building Schools for the Future Programme, a private finance initiative to rebuild every secondary school by 2010. For the first time, IT is a key consideration in the building programme and schools are committed to improving interaction between students, parents and teachers.

Resellers looking to penetrate this market should be aware that whilst schools are committed to using IT to improve communications, it is not a technical sell. They should concentrate on what schools are looking to achieve rather than the features and benefits of their particular products.”

 

Contacts

Tracey Calcutt, marketing manager at distributor Mayflex says her company has had considerable success in working in the education sector with her resellers.

“In our experience we have found that primary and junior schools will tend to have an ICT Coordinator that will be in charge of IT – they won’t be necessarily be that technical and are probably a teacher in their own right. Therefore these schools rely very much on the LEA – the LEA will advise on what products to buy and which installers/resellers to use. Therefore it’s imperative that the installer targets the LEA to get any chance of winning projects.

There’s no easy way to break through so I’d recommend – direct mail, telemarketing, case studies, recommendations and just keep contacting the LEAs on a regular basis – you can get a lot of useful information from the web i.e. contacts etc – the National Grid for Learning.” (NGFL – see information panel at end)

Calcutt says that Senior Schools, Colleges and Universities will generally have a full time ICT Manager – they will make the decisions on what products are installed – so these are the people that suppliers need to target using, she says, the same methods as above.

 

“Each school has to get three quotes for any work carried out – this is government policy – there’s usually a tender process especially for the larger projects. At the moment most schools have a big focus on Interactive learning – the key aims are to get more PCs in the school – this is called the NGFL Baseline – there are guidelines in place to say that a school should have ‘x’ amount of PCs per pupil – the aim is to improve this by set dates over the next few years – therefore more pupils have access to PCs. We have an education area on our web site devoted to this.

Also, as you mentioned in your introduction, interactive whiteboards and projectors – the government through BECTA, a UK agency which supports all four UK education departments in their strategic ICT developments, has put a great deal of funding in place to help the primary schools do this – BECTA has a list of approved suppliers and installers which have to be used for a school to be able to

Mobotix IP camera from Mayflex

claim this funding. However schools will also have separate IT budgets outside of this and in these cases they can use whatever supplier they like.”

Calcutt adds, “Obviously the impact with both of the above is that the cabling and infrastructure needs to be right to be able to support them. So this is as important but probably not such a big focus for the schools – they will just expect it to work and it will just become an issue when the network goes very slow or falls over!

Another big area is security – especially in the efforts to combat bullying in schools – CCTV is big and will get a lot bigger. If there is government funding in place then the school would be more likely to go for a more sophisticated system such as IP surveillance cameras from Mobotix. If they have smaller budgets then they would probably look at genearl IP cameras from manufacturers such as LevelOne – basically they need to be able to download the images to a server.”

 

What Users Want

Question: What do education establishments look for in an IT/Comms provider? We asked Bailey Teswaine customer Kris Williams, Network Services Manager, Bexley Grammar School.

“At Bexley Grammar, we have over 1,500 pupils and 8 IT suites. We are very innovative in our use of IT across the school, so our IT suppliers need to help us ensure we deliver a consistent, reliable IT service.

The key strengths we look for when identifying suppliers include:

• A clear understanding of our business

• The ability to provide value for money –not just the cheapest

• Continuity in the working relationship

• Bespoke maintenance

• Flexible SLA’s – we have clear SLA’s in place – but if we have any IT/ICT issues we expect our suppliers to   recognise the urgency in which they need to be addressed.

Interesting to note that Williams sees his school as a business. “Our suppliers need to understand the specialist requirements of an education establishment, i.e. many support issues need to ideally be addressed outside teaching hours, it is very difficult to stop classes mid way through to reboot servers! So flexibility on support and maintenance are crucial.”

 

Understand Constraints

Williams concludes, “The government are constantly publicising the amount of money being invested in education. However, in reality, gaining access to the budgets can be prolonged. So an understanding of our budget constraints is important when trying to ensure our IT systems remain up to date with industry standards.

A good example of an effective supplier relationship is the one we have with Bailey Teswaine who deliver and support our telecoms and wireless networking requirements. Recently, Bailey Teswaine has upgraded our phone systems to VOIP and has also installed a wireless network which enables our staff to work from laptops and PDAs across the whole site, utilising innovative technologies such as electronic registration in the classroom.”

 

Reseller Comment

Jerry Parker, Managing Director of Lincoln-based, SCS Technology Solutions told us that his ten year old company is now the city’s leading independent supplier of IT equipment and networks and is a Microsoft Certified Partner official reseller.

“The company has grown steadily across a wide range of organisations, with particular successes in the education, SME and not for profit sectors, as well as with many professional organisations.

“We have a number of customers in the education sector in Lincolnshire, many of which we have built up long-standing and strong relationships with. The education sector in our region is a particularly difficult area to break into as it is heavily controlled by local Government departments and education authorities. All the schools in the area are given a budget each year to spend on IT and although they are free to spend it how they wish, they are also strongly encouraged to spend it with the education authority’s preferred supplier. This can be a major barrier between us, as independent suppliers and local schools, however we are beginning to break down that wall.

We are one of only two Microsoft Authorised Education Resellers in Lincoln and having this status enables us to offer software licensing solutions for Microsoft products to more educational institutions and at significant discounts.We are able to provide more cost effective, tailor-made solutions to organisations where value for money is always at the forefront of their thinking.

For a number of years we have been in a position to rely on word of mouth to win new customers and luckily it’s no exception in the education sector. Having provided quality installations to a number of schools this has led to other work and despite the disadvantage of the dim view from the education authority we have a very healthy client base within the education sector.

This is no more evident than with the £100,000 installation we completed with Lincoln’s Robert Pattinson School after they received Language Status.We won a fierce national tender to gain the businesses and through our expertise and understanding of the customers needs we notably expanded our education client base.

With all our customers, including those in the education field, we pride ourselves on understanding our clients’ needs and providing tailor-made solutions which match their brief. This, above anything else, is how I believe we win our customers. Obviously this is boosted by our industry knowledge, client base and accreditations but without respecting and understanding our customers we would be nowhere.”

 

Reseller Case Study

Recently the Institute of Education, University of London (IoE) extended access to its educational resources across sites in central London with mobile Internet and network solutions from Nortel. Nortel’s Mobility Solution provided highly secure and integrated access to commonly used applications for more than 6,000 IoE students and 800 faculty and staff, regardless of where they are on campus. The solution was deployed across the Institute’s three sites in conjunction with Nortel’s channel partner, Applinet, and includes adaptive WLAN products and security switches.

 

The Institute has also deployed Nortel’s Communication Server 1000, enabling a migration path for the Institute’s existing voice network. To ensure a secure solution, Nortel’s Ethernet Routing Switches and Ethernet Switches were also connected to the core of the IoE network to create separate virtual LANs.

“Our new mobility solution has greatly enriched the educational experience at the Institute by extending the learning environment across our entire campus,” said David Snewin, computing manager at the IoE. “The wireless network from Nortel is practical and easy to maintain, and its centralised, layered approach to security eliminates any concerns we had about the integrity of wireless communications.”

“Applinet partnered with Nortel at a very early stage of the project definition to help the IoE capture the technical and practical requirements of students and staff,” said Darren Boyce, managing director, Applinet. “Applinet was able to deliver on the IoE’s vision of greater access to more stakeholders by developing a highly secure wireless LAN that has become central to the university’s day-to-day curriculum.”

 

Reseller Case Study

Competing to top the league tables is becoming a thing of the past at seven North Somerset schools where pupils will benefit from a £138,000 investment in technology that will enable teachers across the area to share best practice, resources and lesson plans.

Under the move, Azzurri Communications, has deployed its TALMOS computer application to the North Somerset 7 Federation of schools, making it possible for teachers to easily share and access lesson plans at the click of a mouse.

The schools share a common vision to move away from a position where they are seen as competing to fight their way to the top of league tables, to a point where they recognise their shared and mutual strengths to profit from learning together.

In addition, the new technology provides a 24×7 learning environment whereby parents are able to play a greater role in supporting their children’s education at home, enabling those with home computers to connect to resources that are being used in the classroom.

The initiative comes at a time when teachers are facing an ever-increasing workload outside the classroom.

Gavin Ball, deputy head teacher, Gordano School said; “We are creating a shared electronic resource that will allow us to co-operate in the development of lesson plans and materials. In the medium term, the solution will also allow parental and student access from home, to homework and course work projects.”

 
 
Applinet – www.applinet.co.uk
Azzurri – www.azzurricommunications.com
Bailey Teswaine – www.baileyteswaine.co.uk
Mayflex – www.mayflex.co.uk
Mitel – www.mitel.com
National Grid for Learning – www.ngfl.gov.uk
SCS Technology Solutions – www.scstechsolutions.co.uk
SpliceCom – www.splicecom.com
 
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