The Brittons Academy in Rainham, Essex, is a pioneering secondary school, driven by the vision of Principal, Robert Sheffield and Vice Principle, Richard Ayre. The ethos of the school, which became an Academy in 2011 in association with The Coopers’ and Coburn School, Upminster, is to give pupils the right balance of inspired learning, whilst engaging them with real world experiences to help them prepare for their future working lives. Pupils are encouraged to get fully involved in all aspects of school life including contributing when the school is bidding for funding, getting involved in planning new developments and mentoring younger pupils at both Brittons and other local schools.
In order to maintain the balancing act of keeping the children entertained but still focused on learning, the school explored how to best make use of the latest technology. Following a discussion at BETT on the subject of pupils using their own devices at school, Brittons decided to look into the possibility of how it could work for them. The school was aware that the equipment students had at home was as advanced, if not more so, than the equipment at school, and that the children were streets ahead in their ability to use technology. The school also recognised that by harnessing technology in the right way it could really get the most out of its pupils.
The Brittons Academy had experienced problems with pupils misusing devices in class and a ban had previously been put in place. These sanctions are still in place if protocols are ignored but pupils can now use devices in class to enhance learning. The concern of both offline and online bullying has also been dealt with, with older pupils acting as mentors for younger members of the school community. However, the school didn’t just require a usage protocol in order to realise its vision as a school of the future. It also realised that its connectivity would underpin its technology vision and the learning experience for 1000 pupils and 200 staff.
The school approached current supplier, Toucan Computing, to find the best solution to its connectivity challenge. Toucan Computing then consulted D-Link for its expertise on networking, and worked with the D-Link team to implement a solution.Out of the three solutions, the school chose the products with the highest specification in order to future proof its investment for the next 10 years. High quality, high-availability, chassis-based multi-layer DGS-6600 D-Link switches enable the school to be reliably and securely covered with a wireless system that is robust enough to host 1000 pupils at any one time. The solution provides 10 Gigabit connectivity across the school grounds and is fully redundant, enabling the WiFi network to continue to work even if the equipment suffers from fan or power supply failures. Additionally it is set up to handle VOIP, a captive portal page is available to enable guests and pupils alike to securely access the WiFi, there is the possibility of adding IP security cameras at the school in the future and it also provides the ability to fully upgrade the technology.
Richard Ayre added, “We wanted our pupils to maximise their learning experience by being able to access any information they want, no matter where in the school they are. Thanks to our new WiFi and BYOD policy we are achieving this. Previously, the school only had a few areas with WiFi access but since we’ve installed the new system pupils no longer have to fight for the limited space available in the library – they can study anywhere.”
As well as the benefit to its pupils, Brittons has also become the first D-Link Centre of Excellence, showcasing to other schools how it is using technology to maximum effect, and helping the local community to develop its IT skills. D-Link works with schools and academies to create Centres of Excellence where they can train school leavers and members of the local community in IT.