Ceredigion is a remote and largely unspoilt area of West Wales, best known for its breathtaking coastline, quiet roads and rural way of life. It has no dual carriageway, no Marks and Spencer's and only one escalator in the whole county! Yet its local authority, in partnership with RM Education, has in the space of only a year connected 35 schools in the region with a 21st-century network that delivers a consistent, smooth-running and high-quality ICT service over 4,500 students.

Cyngor Sir Ceredigion's vision for education was to provide cutting-edge, value-for-money 21st century learning across the county. Critical to this was providing a choice of devices, accessibility to all learners, as well as cost effective school management systems. After seeing a demonstration of Community Connect 4 (CC4), the UK's most popular school network solution, the authority decided they wanted to work with RM Education on a bold vision for joined-up computing.

The result is one single, centrally-managed domain running right across Ceredigion's schools, with shared services. This achieves a drastic reduction in waste, workload and duplication to provide one smooth-running system. A single team of school technicians runs the network across the county, which has brought costs right down while increasing capacity.

Multi-site networking using CC4

Ceredigion has achieved this transformation of its school IT with the help of RM Education and a ground-breaking implementation of CC4 across multiple sites. The authority was not initially considering RM Education as an IT partner, but then a demonstration of CC4 left them enthused and wanting to find out more. They did their own tests, which proved that CC4 could work across multiple sites. This was not something that RM offered at the time, but after looking at the evidence they began working with the far-sighted Ceredigion team to achieve their goals.

Many Ceredigion schools have low pupil numbers and the multi-site model means that CC4 can operate with a single server in each school and a couple of centrally managed servers, making it a very economical solution. There are other savings, too.

A standard secondary school network requires two servers, an email system, printing solutions, a media server, web-filtering, a development server and a considerable number of backup devices.

In contrast, a multi-site secondary school in Ceredigion can operate with only one server and no local backup devices. Backup, AD redundancy, media SIMS, printing, FIM (identity management) and radius/Wi-Fi management have all been centralised.

The Ceredigion team currently centrally manages 35 sites, approximately 2,000 PCs and 4,700 users across the region.

How do schools benefit?

Being part of a multi-site network automatically provides schools with a robust ICT development plan and a trusted knowledge and support base for their ICT. Centralised purchasing means reduced cost, and schools can easily deploy a variety of computers because each server maintains the same build image. Setup for a whole school site can take no more than an afternoon.

It also means that teachers and pupils can login and access their work from any school, pupil referral unit, in a hospital where necessary and at home.

CC4 Anywhere can also help pupils with the difficult transition between primary and secondary school. Because schools all use the same network, the system works in a familiar way, which helps to reduce the learning dip that can occur when pupils change schools. When a pupil starts a new school, setting them up is easy - a new user account and email address can be set up before they arrive.

There are also advantages for the curriculum, with equal and consistent access to software in every school. Literacy and numeracy packages, for instance, can be deployed centrally for use in every school across the county.

"RM Education is an open company, friendly and approachable, with a willingness to talk about new ideas. They have a respect for what we are doing and for what we want to achieve. We've developed massively in one year and couldn't have implemented a solution like this without RM Education."
Alan Morris - Manager, Systems Development, Ceredigion

Future challenges

The partnership between Ceredigion ICT Systems Development team and RM Education will continue to grow and develop. The pressure on budgets will continue, as will the demands on the increasing ICT access and capability right across the region to all of its lifelong learners.

Talk to the Ceredigion team about their ICT developments and working in partnership with RM Education:

Cyngor Sir Ceredigion County Council

Alan Morris - Manager, Systems Development
01970 633667 - alan.morris@ceredigion.gov.uk

Iwan Davies - Senior Systems Development Officer
01970 633688

If you would like to find out more about RM Community Connect please visit www.rm.com/communityconnect

Categories: Case studies, Network managers

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