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Case study – Sheffield builds schools for the future with DDAI

Andrew Brister 30 May 2012

Sheffield’s secondary schools are leveraging the extensive experience of Dimension Data Advanced Infrastructure (DDAI) in delivering specialist IP infrastructure as they undergo an educational revolution. TFA reports. Sheffield’s secondary schools are leveraging the extensive experience of Dimension Data Advanced Infrastructure (DDAI) in delivering specialist IP infrastructure as they undergo an educational revolution. A total of 27 schools are being rebuilt or refurbished across Sheffield to meet the needs of their pupils, in a multi-million-pound development programme with intelligent building solutions at their core. DDAI has been contracted to undertake a full rollout of specialist IP infrastructure packages for all 27 secondary schools in Sheffield. This rolling programme will see each school either refurbished or rebuilt under the Building Schools for the Future programme.@page_break@Intelligent collaborationBuilding Schools for the Future (BSF, now no longer funded by the coalition) represents a new approach to capital investment, bringing together significant investment in buildings and in ICT (Information Communications Technology) to ensure that pupils learn in a 21st-century environment. ICT is central to the transformation of learning in BSF in Sheffield and the value of capital investment is up to £40 million over the life of the programme. Prior to this initiative, there had been a limited investment in the school infrastructure, leading to a reduction in the quality of stock, the quality of the buildings and the infrastructure. This £40m funding, however, has enabled Sheffield schools to transform education and to drive up attainment levels. Sheffield City Council, Vinci Construction UK, Civica and Partnership for Schools (PfS) are working together to deliver this programme through the Sheffield local education partnership (LEP). Civica is the ICT supplier chosen to develop and deliver Sheffield’s vision for ICT and eLearning through the BSF programme. Civica Education, part of Civica UK, is the ICT prime contractor for the Sheffield BSF programme. It provides software and ICT solutions to help improve education and learning services, both in the UK and further afield, with its reach stretching across the globe. Civica works with more than 6,500 schools, 1500 libraries, and no fewer than 50 of the UK’s top universities. At the heart of the business is the central mission of delivering modern, robust and flexible ICT solutions that add to the learning experience and outcomes for all those who use them.  Whilst DDAI can claim a 70% share of the UK’s BSF market, the Sheffield BSF project is the first time that Civica and DDAI have worked together. Jon De’ath, partnership director, Civica UK, comments: “Sheffield BSF has been our first partnership collaboration with DDAI and we have been extremely pleased by their positive and innovation attitude throughout both the design and installation phases of this project.” Both organisations have gelled extremely well together, establishing solid working relationships. This relationship has already resulted in further joint projects, based on the trust built at Sheffield.@page_break@
Business challengesDelivering the BSF projects comes with a number of challenges which reflect the nature of the programme and the environment in which they are being installed. The nature of the BSF packages means that there is very often a fragmented approach to delivery. Furthermore, implementing infrastructure solutions in a school requires great flexibility. The working schedule has to be constantly reviewed to reflect changes in the programme as well as accommodating school term and holiday periods, and in the majority of cases the work is being conducted in a ‘live education environment’. To achieve the required timescales, 10 schools had to be delivered in parallel in a four-month period. A huge amount of programming and coordination were needed to achieve this outcome. Using a fully integrated ICT infrastructure approach however, DDAI and Civica flattened the supply chain and incorporated all IP services under one umbrella. The DDAI solution addressed many parts of the BSF deliverables, from ICT to mechanical and electrical services, as well as ongoing support and remote management services. Delivering multiple packages from one organisation in DDAI drove down costs, reduced timescales and reduced delivery risks. Indeed, DDAI operated an extremely tight supply chain and has also been able to eliminate duplication of prelim and labour costs, due to the utilisation of multidisciplined project engineers. Managing finances during such a programme provides a business challenge; however DDAI’s strong balance sheet meant they were able to manage the financing in a way that removed this problem.@page_break@DDAI solutions and resultsCisco Systems lies at the heart of the solution installed by DDAI for the core wireless local area network (LAN) and telephony that will form the backbone of all the school installations.  DDAI’s intelligent procurement, bundling of systems and multi-ordering led to significant economies of scale. This was only achievable by DDAI having responsibility for a broad range of the IP integration packages under the BSF initiative. Whilst Civica had overall responsibility for ICT systems specifications in partnership with Sheffield City Council, DDAI was very active in a number of areas in support of this, a key example being the DDAI scheduled ‘client engagement workshops’ for the telephony systems. DDAI has also delivered an innovative five-year support package providing fully remote managed services bespoke to the needs of each individual school. This service makes full use of the DDAI Infrastructure Operations Centre (IOC) located in its Cheshire office. Another vitally important component of the solution was security, including IP-CCTV, which DDAI had responsibility for both design and installation. The security solutions have delivered significant value to the overall DDAI solution. DDAI selected a large number of network video cameras from partner Axis Communications who provide discreet video surveillance and excellent image quality. The presence of industry-leading CCTV systems has provided clear evidence in changes of behaviour, in fact the solution paid for itself within six months through reductions in vandalism. The IP-CCTV solution has also reduced bullying across the Sheffield schools, which in turn has led to an overall improvement in attainment levels.De’ath, concludes: “The solutions installed are not only providing real economic value, but more importantly they are providing the infrastructure foundations to enable the use of ICT to enhance teaching and learning within schools.” www.dimensiondata.com 

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