An important consideration of any New School Project, or the improvement of an established school, SBS Education believes strongly that ICT needs to be seen by all involved in the development of new schools as the ‘5th school utility’, as it is now often called.
A well maintained ICT infrastructure boosts staff confidence, allows issues to be rectified quickly and facilitates the upscaling of the technology as the school and the number of onsite users grows.
Below are our tips for investors and school operators when untaking an ICT Infrastructure Project.
1. Plan early in the project
Alongside electricity, gas, water and telephone systems, schools should expect ICT systems to be just as well-integrated and just as reliable.
All too many new school builds are fundamentally flawed where ICT has been ‘bolted on’ after the major design work and, in some cases, after even much of the construction has been completed. Other key utilities, such as lighting, are fully integrated into the building plans and designs and seen as a key architectural design function and part of the architect’s role. ICT is frequently treated in school builds as a component within the fixtures and fittings phase and added later by contractors.
All too many new school builds are fundamentally flawed where ICT has been ‘bolted on’ after the major design work
The best way to achieve this degree of reliability and service is for the architecture design team to work from the outset with an experienced ICT team who can carry out a thorough site survey and design, supply, install and support a comprehensive infrastructure and platform for teaching and learning.
This approach is now standard in industry, commerce and the financial sector, and should now be adopted in the education sector.
Typical project items
Ensure that the school ICT continues to deliver for staff and students
2. Organise day-to-day support
Once a state-of-the-art infrastructure is installed (or planned as early as possible in the project) it is important that the ongoing maintenance of the ICT is taken into account to ensure that the ICT continues to deliver for staff and students.
There are different levels of support available to allow growing schools to maximise their investment and the impact of technology on teaching and learning.
When considering the options available to you, we would recommend the following:
Build an expert team
Installing an ICT coordinator, supported by one or more technicians (depending on size of school) provides hands-on support to maintain a smooth-running infrastructure for school back-office operations and classroom learning.
Fully-qualified technicians can be deployed to work with your existing team and provide on-the-ground management of the school’s ICT, including the network, storage, hardware and classroom technology.
Organise remote support
For tighter budgets, as an alternative to building an on-the-ground team, school staff can be supported by a professional Service Desk that provides real-time assistance via email and telephone with remote monitoring and access for issue resolution.
Select hardware and software suppliers with training and aftersales care
When selecting technology suppliers, it is important that staff and students receive in-depth training post-implementation to be able to maximise the use of school technology. The training provided should be tailored to the specific needs of the school. This could be provided directly from the manufacturer or developer or via a third-party, such as an ICT support provider with a specialism in education who can train on multiple solutions during one visit.
After planning training, it is beneficial in the long term to ensure that the school can receive ongoing onsite or remote support in order to troubleshoot day-to-day queries.
3. Review and improve
Furthermore, the school ICT team should be proactive in driving the continued technological development of the school.
After a few academic years, as the school intake grows, a comprehensive audit of your school’s ICT would be beneficial to create a detailed 5-year development plan.
A thorough audit should include a complete a review of your school’s ICT, including make, model, age, capacity and suitability of your equipment, network and teaching suites. A detailed report of your ICT should be provided to outline recommended upgrades and draft budgeting information. With this information the school is well-informed to decide which action to take.
Example SBS ICT Audit RAG table
We hope the information above is useful to help you to plan your ICT project and its ongoing maintenance.
SBS helps to open state-of-the-art facility in Sussex countryside
For a scalable, high-speed ICT infrastructure, the team carried out a technical survey of the school and liaised with the site manager to map out where fibre broadband, Wi-Fi points, the server and network cabling would be best located.
The school wanted its ICT to facilitate secure remote working on and offsite. After providing infrastructure options using the site survey, we implemented and configured a powerful server, broadband and purpose-built firewall for schools. We also provided MIS setup and training.