TECHNICAL SUPPORT SERVICES
Our team is available from 8am to 4pm every weekday to provide support. Staff and associates can contact the helpdesk via an online portal, email, or phone, whereby our technicians will support them over the phone or by remote access to their computer. If we can’t fix it remotely, our technicians will arrange a site visit instead.
Users have access to a wealth of knowledge articles and self-service requests they can access through our ticketing system. We actively encourage users to learn and have a go themselves, but if they get stuck they can refer to any of our resources at any time throughout the day, evening, or weekend.
Our team strives for excellence and we are continuously looking at ways to improve the delivery and accessibility of technical services and facilities across the trust. Our support team currently holds a customer satisfaction of 4.9 out of 5 stars and will always value any feedback you may have.
Our technicians hold an array of industry certifications in servers, telephony, networking, security, and service management, consequently helping us provide our outstanding service. Several technicians are also completing a qualification to earn the status of chartered IT technician with the British Computing Society.
Our hybrid-cloud infrastructure provides an effective solution for our multi-site environment that ensures the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of our network. In this model we reduce the requirement for localised infrastructure by providing a cost-effective centralised solution that delivers the necessary compute resources for all school across the trust.
We automate the management of user accounts, service integrations, and device management to improve the delivery of our services. Orchestration helps us to reduce errors and security risks, prevents inaccurate data input, respond quicker to requests, and ensure all accounts and devices are kept operational.
By utilising a global identity provider (IdP) and mobile endpoint management (MEM) solution, our infrastructure enables users to securely operate from any type of device. Users have the option to work from their preferred type of device and access school resources from either Windows, iOS, MacOS, ChromeOS, or a mixture.
COLLABORATION & SHARED RESOURCES
Part of our journey is to enable schools to work together and share resources, share best practice, and allow staff to communicate and bounce ideas with colleagues across the trust. Thanks to our centralised computing systems, staff have access to a wealth of tools that enable collaborative sharing and communication.
Throughout the development of our curriculum, schools have built a central repository of resources to facilitate the delivery of a rich and diverse curriculum. Known as ‘the brain’, this central repository enables all staff to access and share high-quality teaching resources, planning, and other content.
Yammer & Teams
As a trust-wide platform, Yammer is an excellent tool for staff to start a conversation, share their ideas, ask questions, show off their work, and more! Staff can also use Microsoft Teams to invite groups of colleagues together to collaborate and chat, either from within their school or across the entire trust.
ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY
Accessibility & reliability
We continuously invest in technology for our school to ensure staff and pupils have access to effective equipment that enables an enriched teaching and learning experience. With a reliable infrastructure, we want to encourage the use of technology in the classroom as an aide to day-to-day teaching and pupil development.
Experience and skills
We want our pupils to experience a range of technologies so they can build a comprehensive set of computing skills. By embedding technology throughout their learning, pupils will gain valuable experience that will support their journey into secondary education and beyond into employment.
Staff & pupil benefits
Whilst part of our trust, staff and pupils are entitled to install the full version of Microsoft Office on up-to five personal devices. Simply open www.office.com, click on Install Office, follow the on-screen instructions, and finally sign in with your school email address and password.
SAFEGUARDING & COMPLIANCE
Implementing controls to filter and monitor individual user accounts is technically challenging and often schools are not protecting their devices correctly. To ensure we apply appropriate safeguards across our entire fleet, we utilise a solution from Smoothwall to provide us with the required controls and advanced alerting capabilities.
We are committed to the safety of our users and by investing in this solution we have a higher probability of catching concerns early and providing the appropriate support or intervention. When using any of our managed devices inside or outside of school, our systems will flag any concerns to the school’s safeguarding officer.
Data governance & privacy
Data privacy is paramount and we are implementing several controls to protect our user’s information. Through tagging, categorisation, automatic archiving, data loss prevention, and more, we are working to provide a robust solution across our entire organisation that mitigates risks and protects the privacy of our users.
We want to ensure that all schools have excellent provision in place for online safety and we’re utilising the 360 degree safe tool provided by SWGfL to audit and improve our current practices across the Trust. Our ambition is to achieve and maintain the accredited Online Safety Mark across every school.
Licensing and software inventory
Historically schools used a myriad of software without keeping a software inventory or the associated licensing information. To ensure we are not infringing the terms of our software licensing, we conduct software usage audits and implement various controls in order to manage and maintain compliance.
ADVANCED CYBER SECURITY
Protecting our users and organisation
Security is our highest priority and a key driver for investing in our facilities. From experience, most schools are unaware of their large attack surface due to the poor configuration and legacy equipment still in use. With the severity of cyber threats increasing over recent years, we are utilising a defense-in-depth approach that applies multiple layers of security controls to reduce the risk to our users and organisation.
To provide such sophisticated security in our infrastructure we are utilising Microsoft’s suite of comprehensive security solutions including Cloud Security, Threat Protection, Identity and Access Management, Information Protection and Risk Management. With our integrated infrastructure, we have significant visibility and control to detect, respond, and mitigate cyber attacks.
Cyber Incident Response Team
Attacks can be initiated by anyone, whether they are a script kiddie, hacker, hacktivist, or advanced persistent threat. Having already mitigated attacks from Australia, Canada, China, Iran, Nigeria, and Russia, we have to be ready to respond at any moment. As part of our commitment to security, we are continuously improving our detection and response processes and developing a Cyber Incident Response Team (CIRT).
To reduce the likelihood and impact of any potential breach, we are continuously improving our systems and processes by moving towards a zero-trust model across our entire environment. We also take our responsibility to protect sensitive systems seriously and understand the severity in handling high-risk information such as the private key of our Public Key Infrastructure or global administrator credentials to our tenancy.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY & DISASTER RECOVERY
Network health monitoring
To guarantee our services remain operational and healthy, we have hundreds of sensors monitoring critical systems around the clock. Technicians are alerted to any warnings or errors within the infrastructure and will proactively respond to any problems before they escalate into incidents.
Resilience and redundancy
With our reliance on a hybrid-cloud infrastructure, we utilise several redundant solutions in order to maintain normal operations during an unplanned outage. Each site has diverse internet connectivity with HA firewalls, and we are implementing changes to provide high-availability and geodiversity in our centralised servers.
Backup and recovery
Many organisations do not realise that Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace requires you to maintain a backup of your own data. We have a solution in place to maintain an offline backup of our entire tenancy (emails, files, accounts, etc.) along with our central server infrastructure. This provides us with the ability to recover data and restore access in the event of an incident or accident.
Disaster recovery planning
With critical infrastructure serving multiple schools and thousands of users, we have numerous system in place to minimise the impact and improve the recoverability of a disaster such as fire, flood, theft, cyber attack, etc. We are still improving our disaster recovery posture, however this is part of the ongoing work as we continue to upgrade the infrastructure and operational processes within our schools.
Since the pandemic schools have realised the value in remote learning tools to help deliver the curriculum in new and exciting ways. In our trust we are using Microsoft Teams to deliver a range of activities, assignments, online tutoring, and homework to our pupils. As we improve the availability of technology in our classrooms, teachers are starting to adopt online learning strategies to further engage and support pupil development.
Microsoft have developed an enormous amount of resources for the education sector to help improve pupil development and to help staff manage and engage the classroom. With our environment built around Microsoft technologies we are keen to explore the use of tools such as Reading Progress, Immersive Reader, MakeCode, Minecraft for Education, and more, as staff continue to further embed technology into their lessons.
One of our biggest achievements is enabling just under 3000 pupils to transition to remote learning in under a month. We were already in the process of providing an online learning platform before the pandemic started which enabled our schools to rapidly adapt to the delivery of online lessons to every child in our trust.
STRATEGIC PLANNING & BUDGETING
Detailed strategic plan
To enable the modernisation of our entire infrastructure and services, our IT Operations Manager proposed the following ICT Strategic Plan to key stakeholders across the trust. The plan details a significant restructure and investment across our organisation, and with the approval of our headteachers and the Board, has enabled significant changes that continue to improve the overall operation and delivery of education within our schools.
We ensure that every school has a 5-year budget in place that covers all associated ICT costs along with a rolling programme to replace all devices on a regular schedule. This provides us with a predictable budget, reduces unexpected failures, enables us to maintain security updates, and ensures each school remains operational.
Instead of worrying about ICT, we remove the burden to free up our headteacher’s valuable time to focus on the delivery of education. As part of our service, we manage everything relating to ICT including budgets, contracts, purchasing, installations, compliance, technical support, and more. We will liaise with each school to understand their individual needs, and then we take care of the rest!
PROCUREMENT & INSTALLATIONS
Contracts, tenders, and frameworks
One of the benefits of working together as a trust is bulk purchasing power and the due diligence of contractual agreements. By managing the ICT budget centrally, we have greater visibility to align our contracts and rolling-programme in order to make cost-effective and best value purchasing decisions.
To build a sustainable model, we are moving away from ad hoc purchasing and working with trusted suppliers and frameworks to provide a consistent purchasing option for all equipment and services. Our approach aims to deliver reliable services and a source of equipment with insurance, warranty, and parts availability.
Additional funding for ICT has been scarce over the years, however recently the DfE announced a ‘connect the classroom’ grant that has awarded us over £192,000 to upgrade our networking infrastructure. This has made a significant difference already and we remain watchful for any future funding to support ICT within schools.
Installation and project management
With the quantity of work required to manage and maintain ICT facilities, it can be difficult for schools to keep track of everything. Our team will remove this burden and provide the project management and installation services required to manage and see through the completion of works. We perform most installations in-house, however we also use the skills and capacity of external contractors if deemed necessary.
WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT US
A service which demonstrates the power of forward thinking staff and resource planning is ICT. The ICT Strategy is a notable document in terms of structure and content, and clearly is evidence of a highly capable leader who has been allowed to take ownership of their remit.
I have seen your strategic plan as it popped up on the internet when I searched for different plans. I have to say it is the best strategic plan of any I have seen and by some way. It has been really helpful to frame our thinking.