Netherhall School is a successful state secondary situated in Maryport on the West Cumbrian coast.
With 715 students enrolled and a full complement of staff, the school is a hub for the local community and brings its own brand of positivity and care to all they do.
They have been ICT Direct customers for a number of years, and we have maintained a successful relationship with the school through both good and tough times, staff changes and most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic.
In January of 2021, ICT Direct’s own, Dave Foulks caught up with Netherhall Network Manager, Dale Stephenson for a chat about how ICT Direct’s products had made a difference to the day to day lives of the staff and students.
Dave Foulks: “Hiya Dale, it’s good to catch up. How was your Christmas break?”
Dale Stephenson: “Good thanks, Dave. Quite quiet this year as you would expect. It’s been incredibly busy since the start of term though!”
DF: “I bet it has! Are you managing to provide equipment and home learning for everyone who needs it?”
DS: “It’s been pretty tough, but everyone has done a great job I think.”
DF: “That’s good to hear, I’m glad things are going relatively smoothly. If you’ve a few spare minutes I’d like to have a chat about how ICT Direct products are helping around school?”
DS: “Sure, Dave, fire away.”
DF: “Great! So, I know ICT Direct have provided you with many, many PCs but just how many machines are currently in active service across school?”
DS: “There’s loads! We’ve approximately 315 student desktops, most of which are supplied by ICT Direct; 125 staff desktops with about half currently supplied by ICT Direct and the other half coming up for refresh shortly; there are about 150 laptops, 65 of which are from yourselves; finally we’ve 125 iPads, the majority of which we lease, but about a dozen we purchased from ICT Direct recently.”
DF: “Wow, that’s quite a lot of hardware! Okay, following on from that, I know you tend to ask for quotes each year to replace a sizable batch of machines in one go. So how many more units are you able to replace by buying our refurbished PCs compared to buying new for example?”
DS: “As a matter of policy, all purchases are required to have 3 quotations. When it comes to desktop PCs, I usually replace 30 – 40 at a time, usually including monitors. I’ve installed 3 additional pc suites in my time as IT Manager, all of the equipment supplied by yourselves. Over the cost of a full room, you guys are close to 40% cheaper than brand new. It simply wasn’t affordable to purchase this volume from anywhere else.”
DF: “Speaking of things being affordable, has your IT budget suffered in recent years. I’m thinking as a result of austerity measures and increased software licensing costs for example.”
DS: “I’m lucky to have a very progressive and intuitive headteacher who understands the need and importance of IT in schools and provides budget increases wherever needed and/or possible. IT has been and is our key focus for the coming years.”
DF: “That’s really good to hear, I know not every school is so lucky. Do your leadership team buy into the whole ethos of refurbished products then?”
DS: “For me this is the key point. I am huge on reduce, recycle, reuse. I do it in all aspect of life and it is very much a part of the whole school ethos we have here. It helps that the quality of the product from yourselves is outstanding – there may be a very minor scratch on some of the monitor stands, but this is far outweighed by the price point, plus it’s a very rare occurrence – the equipment is so good, people don’t believe me when I tell them it is refurbished which made getting the leadership team onboard relatively easy. I often speak to (previous Network Manager) Alastair about this and our question is, why wouldn’t you buy refurbished? Great products, at the right price with excellent warranty and support.
DF: “We recently worked with you on a big server infrastructure upgrade, can you talk a little about what went into that and the knock-on effects it has had across the school?”
DS: “We’ve recently upgraded the servers to a much higher standard to meet the growing demand of remote learning and increased student numbers, etc. The original plan was to use a local IT service company who we were contracted to for IT support. They quoted approx. £26,000 for a system which wasn’t much of an improvement on what we had. Actually, they advised us to lease the products, which over the full term would have been nearly £40,000!
Personally, I wasn’t happy with the proposal, so I sought the help of an old colleague – whom you have also worked with previously – to build a better specced, more reliable, future-proofed system.
It was also priced at nearly half of our previous quotation!
I am pleased to say the overhaul is up and running and to-date has not let me down once.
In conjunction with some refurbished switches, the IT infrastructure through the school has been overhauled, including a complete rewire, WIFI hardware and upgraded internet connection to the site at 1gb.”
DF: “That’s a pretty significant upgrade, covering the whole back-end right across school. Has the upgrade made a difference to the quality of teaching and learning then?”
DS: “Directly. Without the additional IT, we would not have been able to implement all of the online learning platforms we wanted to put in place. Now they’re used by all departments in school, across 9 IT suites and including all remote workers/learners.”
DF: “I’m assuming that the upgrade also made things easier when offering the remote provision that has been required due to the current pandemic?”
DS: “Yes. An example is the Remote Desktop Services setup. The old host was failing on a weekly basis and was limited to 16GB Ram. The current RDS has 128GB and is coping very well with the current demand.”
This has a knock-on effect for my team’s productivity. On a day-to-day basis, IT support for hardware is kept to a minimum, this allows us to focus on supporting our users who may be transitioning to unfamiliar software. This is only due to the high quality, reliable equipment.”
DF: “That’s great! I don’t want to keep you much longer, so I’ll make this my last question. You have spoken with most of our team members over the years. How do you find dealing with ICT Direct staff in general?”
DS: “The guys are great. I’ve spent a number of years building up a relationships. You all know what I expect (price, quality, timescales, etc) and always deliver. They’re always friendly, always transparent and always deliver on time. I’ve spent most of my time working with you, Dave, but recently got to know John and Phil as well. On the rare occasion I’ve needed it, support always get back to me with a solution. The process is easy, you send the barcode number of the machine your request is about, and they replace the product. It’s that simple (assuming it needs replacing and can’t be fixed remotely).”
DF: “Thanks, Dale, that is great to hear, and thanks again for taking the time to chat.”
DS: “You’re welcome, Dave. Thanks for your help.
Dave Foulks from ICT Direct was speaking with Dale Stephenson from Netherhall School, Cumbria.