Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust Case Study

Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust

The Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust is a new customer to Coconnect and currently has 37 schools with over 7500 students. We spoke with Ben Ford, the IT Manager for the trust about his experiences with us so far.

Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust

Background.

Ben started with the Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust 4 years ago. At the time, the schools did everything independently and differently. Due to the pandemic, it took a couple of years for Ben and his team to unpick everything so they could start improving IT for the trust again. They now have an IT structure that allows for centralised management of services and supports Trust schools with value for money procurement.

The Trust primarily uses Microsoft products using SharePoint, OneDrive, Outlook and Intune to manage devices whilst maintaining have Apple and Google tenancies and a raft of third-party services which all interact with each other.

Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust problem.

The trust was dealing with 5 different broadband providers across all the schools. There was no coherent strategy for managing the WAN, firewalls and filtering. With no management tools for their networks, they struggled to identify and monitor issues.

From an operational point it was hard to keep track of things. The trust’s geographic size was also an issue – their technicians were travelling across 900sq miles for minor problems. They wanted a partner they could work with so they could align all their schools to a single provider.

The schools had previously been directed by their old providers to go down the cheapest routes. They had cheap routers that were out of date and connected by FTTC lines. These lines only had 80Mbps download and 20Mbps upload speeds, were very unreliable and just didn’t have the capacity for the schools that had over 150 students. It also restricted their aim of moving to the cloud.

Finally, they knew they didn’t have appropriate filtering across the schools and wouldn’t be able to meet the new DfE standards. When the pandemic hit, they needed to focus on connectivity and implement remote learning. Therefore other areas (such as improved filtering) needed to be sorted later.

Why choose Coconnect?

They started looking at a new way of doing things so went through a tender process. Ben explained how Coconnect came out at the top. “We had to keep control of our costs but still needed to provide a good solution for our schools that worked not only for teaching and learning, but also the operational and financial sides of the Trust as well.”

Here’s some of the reasons why the Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust chose Coconnect as their new internet provider:

  • Flexibility with implementation so it could be staggered over a period of time.
  • Providing trusts with their own dedicated systems away from other customers, so they have greater flexibility and control over their own systems.
  • Coconnect gave realistic approaches and timescales.
  • Working together for the rollouts to reach certain deadlines and working around any issues.
  • Helping the trust select the best products for their needs. Ben felt that having a company open to working with more than one filtering company was refreshing as it reduces risk for the Trust as they grow.
  • The ability to tailor the solution to have something completely specific with no shared services with other organisations.

The solution.

The trust chose leased lines for all their schools, ranging from 100Mbps to 1Gbps. And a number of the schools who previously struggled with internet capacity are already noticing the difference.

They also chose Coconnect’s SDWAN system (powered by Fortinet). This gave them even greater resilience, flexibility and reliability, enabling them to make the move to an entirely cloud based education. Where the trust has now moved to the cloud, if one of their schools loses their internet connection, it impacts teaching and learning. To combat this, they added backup lines for every single school.

By using their Netsweeper filtering system with Coconnect before their broadband contract went live, they were able to help their students get over some of the challenges from Covid-19. Initially this worked as an external filter on every device on their network. But now they have a central filtering system, where every school has the ability to sign in to see their students and staff and run reports on demand.

During the deployment, we set up a dedicated Teams channel for easy and regular communication between Ben and his team and our dedicated account manager, service delivery coordinator and installation engineer. Having regular meetings made a big difference and meant that the small number of issues found were reported and resolved quickly.

Ben said: “If you have an internal IT team and an external provider for broadband services, it needs to be a partnership. When you’re working on the scale that we are, you need to have a point of contact. This is what I like about Coconnect, rather than just a getting through to a helpdesk.”

Summary.

Ben thinks the rollout went very well and was a lot easier than previous rollouts he’s been involved in with other companies. With their new solution from Coconnect, the trust is now able to not only meet but exceed the new DfE filtering, monitoring, cyber security, broadband and networking standards for schools.

“We have full access over the firewalls and things that have been implemented, so we can look at them, troubleshoot and do the basics. Then if it’s not a simple fix, we can go to Coconnect. For my staff, that’s a really good thing. From a coaching point of view, they need to know about networks and how it works and the level of support from Coconnect has been great.”

“I truly believe that the SDWAN approach we went with was the best approach with the current technologies that are available. As a trust, everything is going to be reliant on internet connectivity. In the next 2-3 years our voice calling, and all of our entry and access control will be consolidated as well. These sorts of things rely on having really strong internet solutions. This is part of the reason for choosing Coconnect and the solution that we have.”

“Coconnect really seems to get multi-academy trusts. With our previous provider, we used to have over 120 invoices each year. But now, we have one bill! It’s been a smooth transition for our connectivity, and we’ve felt supported at every step of the way.”

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