Leading Multi-Academy Trust Adopts Wireless Cloud Network To Support 1:1 Learning & Improve Student Performance

About the Red Kite Learning Trust

The Red Kite Learning Trust was formed in 2016 and comprises of 13 schools, 3 secondary schools, 9 primary schools and 1 through-school. Serving over 8,000 students and 1,300 staff, David Burns is Head of IT for the Trust and takes overall responsibility for IT across all sites including the server estate, desktops, infrastructure and networking.

David’s main objective in his role is to provide the Trust with a stable platform to improve the learning and achievement of all the students, creating a world-class educational environment.

The largest school within the Red Kite Learning Trust is Harrogate Grammar School, an outstanding non-selective school which educates around 2,000 pupils. Since 2012, Harrogate Grammar School has been a 1:1 learning environment, meaning each student has an iPad which they use as a core learning tool, both within and outside of the classroom. Technology is used to enhance the teaching and learning experience and iPads are used for many key systems across the school including communications and the student planner.

David’s colleague, Iain Hails, plays an instrumental role in this project as the Network Services Manager at Harrogate Grammar School. He is responsible for overseeing all matters relating to IT systems and networks on this site, as well as supporting two of the Trust’s primary schools.

“NETprotocol’s involvement has been invaluable to the successful set up and deployment of Extreme’s CloudIQ Wireless solution. Their engineer’s expertise and technical knowledge is first-class and their on-going engagement between ourselves and Extreme was seamless. I can’t praise them enough and wouldn’t have any hesitation in recommending them to other academies and schools.”

David Burns, Head of IT, www.rklt.co.uk

The Challenge

As their dependency on using technology to teach students effectively continuously grows, it is essential that the IT department can support future changes and improvements quickly and cost effectively.

Due to their approach involving 1:1 learning devices, network stability has been a critical requirement since its inception and has brought ongoing challenges over this time. Constant and reliable access to wireless are absolutely critical if students are to achieve the results they deserve.

Due to these high density needs, Harrogate Grammar School’s previous networking solution brought constant helpdesk requests relating to frustrations with accessing resources within the classroom. This was causing students to lose valuable lesson time, where it could take them 10 minutes to reach the network at times.

The demands and complexities of serving more than 2,500 mission critical wireless clients which are simultaneously moving around one site, needed to be reassessed. To complicate the situation further, the physical environment at the city centre location was particularly challenging for radio frequency, due to the range of materials used during its construction over the course of almost 100 years.

Having worked together previously, David and Iain decided to contact Educational Networking specialists at NETprotocol to discuss possible remedies. Their goal was to ensure that staff, student and guest mobility in excess of 2,500 devices could operate efficiently throughout all areas of the campus without any disruption to student learning, and that network connectivity would be seamless and instant at all times.

David rationalised their needs;

“Ultimately, we wanted to achieve a wired-like experience in a densely populated wireless environment. That is to say, students and staff needed to be able to access all given resources within 30 seconds of entering a classroom, anywhere on the site and at any time. Due to the challenges of this environment, we knew that if this could be achieved at Harrogate Grammar School’s site, it could be achieved anywhere.”

The Solution

Gaining a strong understanding of both student and staff requirements was essential before NETprotocol could begin the process for solution design, including what a typical day of learning involved. This allowed their technical team to decipher the detailed requirements of the network in order to meet client expectations.

“We began with a better understanding of the needs of the school from the perspective of the staff and students. How did the iPads operate? What applications where critical? How did they move around the site? And so on. We also performed a detailed survey which is a critical part of any successful wireless deployment,” explained Paul Rylett, Wireless Lead at NETprotocol.

“The building is around one hundred years old in places, but modern glass fronted in others – it has every type of wall material you can imagine that will affect the wireless propagation. We also faced environmental challenges, the school is surrounded on all sides by a densely populated residential area – as well as the largest radar station in Europe (RAF Menwith Hill) based just along the road. Having gathered all the information, this allowed us to model the environment with a CloudIQ wireless deployment from Extreme and design a solution we knew would provide a seamless learning environment for the large volume of students,” Paul confirmed.

Other key considerations during the initial phases of solution design were how to accommodate the needs of individual year groups, from Year 7 to Year 13 students, as well as those of staff at all levels, BYOD, guest on-boarding and internal mobile devices.

Where possible, an access point (Extreme 305c) was placed in the centre of each classroom to effectively support the high number and density of devices (30+ per classroom throughout the entire school). The power of these access points was configured to create a coverage cell for the room itself, in order to minimise cross-channel interference with other rooms where possible.

Extreme’s CloudIQ has resolved Harrogate Grammar School’s on-going networking issues which previously was not deemed possible. Having set up a Proof of Concept (PoC) at short notice, one school block was fully tested using the new technology before rolling it out site-wide.

As a result, NETprotocol’s engineers were able to see how intuitive the solution was and what level of maintenance reduction it would bring – “which within an educational environment where budgets must be justified, is incredibly invaluable,” Iain added.

The Outcome & Technology ROI

“NETprotocol and Extreme Networks were nothing less than ‘instrumental’ in ensuring the successful deployment of our CloudIQ Wireless solution. From planning and solution design to arranging a PoC, testing the technology, reconstructing the VLAN/Scope setup, mounting and configuring the APs, and providing a seamless aftercare service – these gentlemen went above and beyond their call of duty,” Iain affirmed.

Due to the success of this flagship deployment, the plan for the Red Kite Learning Trust is to use this project as a blueprint for rolling out Extreme’s CloudIQ Wireless solution to a further three sites in the coming months, and to the remaining 9 schools over the next two years. This will not only allow all schools within the Trust to adopt advanced learning techniques without limitation, but will also offer economies of scale, maximise productivity of staff time and increase technology ROI.

“I would measure the success of this investment on both feedback and levels of continued disruption due to poor wifi connectivity. Staff have congratulated me personally in the corridor marking the improvements they have seen as end users. Lessons are now delivered uninterrupted and without falter. Support requests have reduced to none saving valuable IT time and resource.”

What more could we wish for? We would not hesitate for a second to use the support of NETprotocol again,” Iain concludes.

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