Wednesday, January 11, 2006

South Wales school gets £70K LAN
By Basheera Khan | 6 Jan 2006

Cardiff-based Capital Network Solutions (CNS) has added another string to its bow with the design and installation of an advanced network at a school in Barry, South Wales.

Bryn Hafren Comprehensive's new network was developed from the ground up, incorporates a £10,000 wireless network, and is of a complexity not seen in most small businesses, let alone in schools. The £70,000 investment into the school's IT infrastructure enables a cashless environment, opens up avenues for e-learning, and also allows for closer monitoring of children's attendance and even their diet.

The client's desire for Cisco kit to enable the new network was the deciding factor in the school's selection of CNS as a delivery partner, says business development director, Sarah Edwards. CNS has premier partner status in the networking giant's reseller programme, and is a Cisco-accredited wireless specialist.

CNS rolled the network out over the school's summer closure, having been given a blank slate to begin with after the older network was completely stripped.

The new system at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive brings a number of benefits to teachers and pupils alike.

The latter have been issued with individual key-fobs bearing memory chips that allow for high speed electronic registration every morning.

Monitoring and reporting is built into the system, with unexpected absenteeism triggering an automated text message that is sent to the parent’s mobile phone. Texts are also sent as reminders of parent evenings, and notification of school reports being sent home.

The registration system keeps track of pupils between classrooms as well; if a child goes missing, even within the school premises, teachers and parents are alerted far more rapidly than they would be in any traditional system. Bryn Hafren plans to develop a system where parents can check on their children's whereabouts online, throughout the school day.

The key-fobs are also used in the school’s cashless canteen, powered by an alternative payment system provided by the Lyons Group, and as head teacher Phil Whitcombe explains, it's just the tip of the e-commerce iceberg.

“Parents will be able to go online to allocate money to their child’s account, see what they have been eating and credit money to it for school dinner as well as school trips, so children won’t have to bring in cash or cheques to pay for it.”

CNS says the system marks a real investment in the school’s technological future, as the capacity of the network is as yet nowhere near its full potential.

Pupils will be able to save classwork online and study remotely from home. Teachers issued with laptops can work from any ‘quiet’ corner of the school, or work from home and email lesson materials directly to the school photocopiers and printers.

Edwards comments: “The far reaching benefits of introducing such a cutting edge network are enormous for both teachers and students. The ability to work flexibly, to access information from anywhere within the school or from home, to share resources and use the technology to enhance the whole learning experience for both teachers and pupils cannot be underestimated.”

"The way that staff and pupils have embraced the network and all the capabilities it enables is staggering," she says.

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