The RM Group
Published 13 April 2010

IT Systems and RM. Working together to provide the best ICT for schools in Darlington



IT Systems provide a school based, high quality, technical support service to thirty three schools in Darlington, most of which have RM's Community Connect network.

Everything with a plug on it

They work closely with the Local Authority, and their chief goal is to raise the standards of achievement via the use of IT. Their team of seventeen technicians will take a school's ideal ICT scenario and turn it into reality, providing support at all levels from project management to IT procurement from Beebots to servers. "We look after everything with a plug on it." Says John Agar, Head of Strategy at IT Systems.

It's a real village!

One of IT Systems biggest challenges and also achievements is designing and implementing the use of IT at Darlington Education Village. This school, put simply, is a village dedicated to education. Bringing three schools into one, under one roof, and even incorporating its very own village green, this school has a real community spirit as well as an ever present teaching and learning focus. It's a federation of three schools, one primary, one secondary and one special school, all looked after by one governing body.

Walking through this fantastic school, you'll see different pockets of the community, as you would in any village. Peep through a door here and you'll see a hydrotherapy swimming pool complete with sensory light and sound, gaze around the vast entrance hall and café area dedicated to ICT and creative work, or glance into the Primary canteen area to see tiny tots enjoying their healthy cooked lunches on colourful furniture.

A vast project

Bringing together the IT in a project as vast as this (Darlington Education Village measures seven football stadiums in size, and has 1400 pupils, 250 staff and 800 PCs) requires outstanding ICT provision, and trustworthy IT support. This is where the partnership between RM's Community Connect 4 and hardware, and the dedicated IT support from IT Systems comes into action.

As Head of Strategy, John Agar worked on bringing the three schools at Darlington Education Village under one roof. "We knew we had to move the IT forward and by working with RM, we know we're getting the best solutions for these schools. We look after their IT and make sure it's future proofed, so the teachers can get on with teaching and learning."

Tristen Coad, Technical Services Manager for IT Systems adds, "IT Systems have been working closely with RM for ten years now. We share the same values and work together to define a seamless, affordable solution for schools throughout the authority."

John O'Neill, Vice Principal Engagement at Darlington Education Village is incredibly proud of their achievements, saying, "We've moved from the bottom 5% in the league tables to the top 15%. It's been fantastic."

Community Connect, saving time and money

John and Tristen always recommend Community Connect networks to schools in Darlington. They recognise that the time and money spent maintaining a Vanilla network could easily be saved and put to better use if Community Connect were introduced. In fact, completing simple tasks such as clearing filters, resetting user profiles and unblocking websites within Community Connect can save schools thousands of pounds per year versus a Vanilla network, not to mention the time freed up for schools to be able to implement new technologies for the future.

Tristen has seen help desk calls drop massively and witnessed a huge increase in schools' network resilience as a result of acting upon IT Systems' advice and implementing RM's IT.

BETT and the Real Centre

John and Tristen believe that their role is about listening to what teachers want to achieve with ICT and working out how to make that happen.Podcasting? Height adjustable display systems? Printing solutions? No problem.

So where do they get their ideas from? IT Systems make sure they keep up-to-date with new technologies and products available to education. Recently they were able to visit RM's O2 area at BETT and also to the REAL Centre at RM's HQ in Abingdon. Seeing ICT, furniture and learning spaces in action has provided them with food for thought. "It was mind-blowing," enthuses Tristen, "I'd really like Head Teachers in Darlington to see this for themselves."

Harrogate Hill School

IT Systems also look after the IT for new-build Harrogate Hill Primary school, not far away from Darlington Education Village. Here it is plain to see CC4 in action on the eight PCs the school has at the back of every classroom.

Carol Hancocks, one of two Head Teachers at the school never worries about the IT. "It just works," she says, "once we started working with IT Systems and followed their recommendations to use RM equipment, we were able to overcome all our IT challenges in one go. We just expect it to work, and it's given our leaders of learning a lot more power."

ICT co-ordinator at the school, Hannah McManus, doesn't have to worry about the network. She concentrates on moving the school's ICT into the future and her challenges right now include implementing a Personalised Learning scheme and a VLE.

Peace of mind

Hannah need not worry about her challenges. IT Systems will be providing her with the unwavering support she needs along the way, and by implementing RM's IT solutions as part of IT Systems recommendations, she should have no problem at all.

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