Newent Community School and Sixth Form Centre was Gloucestershire's first purpose built 'comprehensive' and in 2015 celebrated their 50 years of service to the town and the rural community. The thriving, successful, vibrant and energetic school is larger than average and provides extensive sporting and leisure facilities to the students and the wider community.

In April 2016, the school first spoke with the RM Flex team and shared their current IT challenges.

First there were five…
The school originally employed a team of five ICT support staff, including a senior technician (network manager role) and four junior technicians. They undertook a process of reviewing their IT support team size and structure to help reduce operating costs.

Then there were four…
The senior technician left as part of the planned staff reduction, and the school believed that the existing staff would be able to pick up the reins. As is the case in many schools, the network manager has built up a piecemeal network to their own specification, using their preferred systems and apps. They held a vast amount of knowledge about the network in their head, and when this person left the school it created a huge gap in knowledge as there was little or no formal network documentation available to the remaining staff.

Then there were three…
It was a complete surprise to the school when a junior technician, who had taken on the role of senior technician, left the team just eight weeks later as they felt unable to work within the new structure.

"We advertised for a network manager, and held interviews but failed to recruit. We couldn't find someone with the right skill-sets needed to fully support the team and management of the school.
Ann Price - Business Manager, Newent Community School

They managed on three staff, but because of the roles they had previously undertaken, the team's skills didn't really match the school's requirements, and the technicians were asking to attend expensive training courses to help them up-skill.

Then there were two…
During the summer holidays, another technician decided to move on to pastures new, and the school were now starting to see parts of the network become unstable. All the senior skills and knowledge had left the team and they were in a really tricky situation.

New Principal, new principles
In September 2016 Alan Johnson took over as the new Principal and, having experienced the benefits of outsourcing their ICT at a previous school, requested they find an expert to help them get back to stability. He was used to IT that 'just works'.

"My overriding priority is for our school to have a secure, reliable and universally improved IT systems. Safeguarding and the well-being of students and staff are of paramount importance to us, and need to be recognised as an integral requirement of any incoming solution.

Any tools and applications need to be simple and straightforward: fit for purpose for the environment and ready to go. Each member of staff needs to be comfortable and confident in using technology to their preferred extant to further goals of teaching and learning.

We needed an IT partner that could to help us get back on an even keel as the IT staff required some additional support following the change in staffing levels."
Alan Johnson - Principal, Newent Community School

Ann Price, Business Manager, turned to several of the large IT support service providers for quotes and to explore the benefits they could bring to the school. There were big differences in price and service, and she commented that other providers were cheaper than RM, but she didn't feel like they had a good overview of her needs; they were just going to put another body on the ground.

"RM's daily system monitoring, remote management service and access to specialist engineers was the safety net that we needed. Meeting our Relationship Manager gave us even more comfort that we would be able to find our way through this situation quickly."
Ann Price - Business Manager, Newent Community School

The school were very keen to ensure that flexibility was a fundamental part of the partnership:

What if we find someone to recruit?
What if we need more support?

Setting a new 'normal'
Fortunately the IT issues that surfaced when the team shrank hadn't yet started to impact significantly in the classroom, however the school realised the difference in service as they aren't having to ask for help for constant issues now because things are much more stable.

"Our school previously had a break-fix mentality. Something would break and we would call on our senior technician to fix it. With RM, our support is now proactive, so we now are getting used to having fewer issues in the first place, and our technicians are well supported by RM. It's a mind-set shift but our confidence level is now much higher."
Ann Price - Business Manager, Newent Community School

RM provided a senior engineer to work directly with the IT team. With a new helpdesk and team of RM engineers to support them, the school technicians are now learning that they don't have to waste time trying to fix everything themselves. They are being trained on effective call prioritisation and escalation, and this is really building their confidence while they are being up-skilled in technical areas.

"We are very happy with how the service is going overall, and we are now changing IT perceptions and working practices with support from RM."
Ann Price - Business Manager, Newent Community School

Silvana Tann, RM Relationship Manager for Newent Community School commented "we are taking a stepped approach with the school; identifying the urgent issues and providing data to support recommendations for change and at the same time allow for effective budgetary planning. Newent are also keen to look at a roadmap for their school's IT which will be led by their teaching and learning goals."



If you would like to talk to RM Education about a bespoke ICT support solution for your school, delivered by a trusted partner, please email your details to flex@rm.com and we'll get in touch, or call us on 0808 172 9534.

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