New IP system increases safety in schools

07 October 2020

Loughborough Schools Foundation, a group of four independent schools and a nursery, with a total of just over 2,500 pupils.

Three of them share a campus: the all-boys Loughborough Grammar, founded in 1495, which has 849 pupils (and 74 boarders); Loughborough High, with 650 girls; and Fairfield Preparatory which has 506 pupils.

Loughborough Amherst School, founded in 1841 as Our Lady’s Convent School, has 359 pupils; and a day nursery looks after 64 children.

The foundation had two separate phone systems and decided it needed a single product which, importantly, would provide features such as classroom lockdown, campus-wide messaging and a lock-out and lock-in function.

It also wanted a system to enable staff to more efficiently communicate with each other, pupils’ families and emergency services.

An evaluation was carried out by the foundation’s IT director, Richard Smeeton.

The foundation engaged Evoke Telecom, based nearby, which installed an Avaya IP system which connects more than 600 Avaya handsets in classrooms and offices in the four schools.

Now staff can communicate through traditional phones, simultaneous SMS messages, as well as through screen pops on computer terminals and broadcast messages over speakers and digital radio. The system has the ability to carry out both lockdown and lockout instantly across every campus, potentially including the ability to control electronic door locks. This is functionality that wasn’t possible with the disparate mix of phone systems and handsets the Foundation was using previously. And the system has been programmed so that pupils cannot use it for external calls.

Mr Smeeton said: “Not only can we now give parents better peace of mind, but because external communication is now much more efficient, school admin staff have been reporting how much easier it is to find pupils who missed registration.

“Our IT support has also been transformed with direct contact reducing ticket numbers and resulting in faster resolution and less wasted lesson time. It is simply not acceptable that students often have more means of effective communication between them than teachers…

“Above all, we believe that student safety and effective school operations shouldn’t be held back by a lack of investment.”

Pictured: the £2.1m Parkin Sports Centre on the campus, designed by A+G Architects and built by Stepnell.