St. Bart’s Multi-Academy Trust (St Barts) was established in November 2013. It is a West Midlands based Multi-Academy Trust with 19 academies in its family of schools, spanning across Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire. Its head office is at Belgrave St. Bartholomew’s Academy in Stoke-on-Trent.
The Starting Point
St. Bart’s steadily expanded its family of academies between 2013 and 2019. Each school had its own communications set-up, ranging from analogue systems, provision from the local authority and direct relationships with telecom providers. The mis-mash of systems created a number of challenges. Firstly, there were technological restrictions, which were especially acute for the schools that relied on analogue systems. With only a few lines running into the school, they could quickly become busy, causing frustration for staff and parents alike. There were also logistical challenges, given that each school had separate billing arrangements and supplier relationships.
There was a clear need to rollout a new system, which would create uniformity across schools, add functionality and reduce costs. The process started in 2019, with the Trust completing a full audit to confirm what telecoms systems were currently in place across each academy, to ensure that it had complete visibility ahead of a migration programme.
To ensure that St. Bart’s had a full view of the market and received the best value, they reviewed quotes from three companies. The criterion was split between the quality of the solution and costings. Upon a full review, St. Bart’s appointed Pescado, a UK-based provider of advanced business IT and telecommunications solutions.
Pescado proposed deployment of its ‘Ola Nhanced’ offering, a cloud telephone system, powered by NFON, the only pan-European cloud PBX provider. The plug and play system gives organisations all the telephony features and the collaboration tools they need, wherever staff are based, via its 150+ features.
St. Bart’s Multi-Academy Trust: “Pescado really impressed because they took time to listen to and understand our objectives. The team clearly has an in-depth understanding of business telecoms solutions and IT services, but they worked hard to get to know us and what we needed. They didn’t try and push an off-the-shelf solution, the proposal was completely geared to what we wanted, with competitive pricing.”
The new proposition
The cloud telephone system would enable St. Bart’s to immediately minimise its upfront costs, replacing these with a per user monthly subscription. This removes any charges associated with ongoing maintenance. The calls would be delivered over the data connection and the local numbers associated with each academy would be ported onto the NFON platform. As well as the call cost savings, additional benefits of the new system includes its mobile integration, e-Fax and call recording functionality.
St. Bart’s Multi-Academy Trust: “One of the most exciting features of the Ola Enhanced system is the emergency broadcasting functionality. The desk phones can be used as a tannoy system, allowing emergency information to be heard via the handsfree speaker. There is no limit to the number and combination of endpoints configured in a multicast. This could be crucial for safe-guarding.”
The system is protected in case of outage. In the event of a loss of external connectivity, users can still access their cloud telephony platform via alternative methods such as internet access at home and disaster recovery by simply using the NFON mobile app over 3/4G.
There are also advanced voicemail features, which means teachers can easily access voicemails from either their email, handset or via their online portal. In addition, the system can be set so calls can be forwarded to mobile numbers or directly to voicemails. Voicemails are then sent as an attachment to the users in email format and if users have a media player then they can play and skip.
Free audio conferencing is included (for use on SLT or parent-governor calls). Each attendee can have a unique dial in number with chairperson and participant codes.
The NFON cloud telephone system delivers St. Bart’s the following benefits:
As part of its proposal, Pescado provided a robust implementation plan to support St. Bart’s transition to its new cloud telephony service in a manner that mitigated risk of change and reduced the transition cost. Pescado completed a meeting and site survey with each school so it could deliver a bespoke solution; for example, some schools wanted phones in each class, other requested key stage phones, others wanted phones in set zones, e.g., in the reception area and offices.
Pescado also worked in partnership with St. Bart’s to enable the migration for schools that previously received their telephony from the local authority, providing paperwork and working directly with the council to expediate timescales.
So far, just over three quarters of the academies have migrated to the new system. The delivery timetable is on track and St. Bart’s is already experiencing the efficiency benefits of cloud telephony.
“We are very pleased with the new system. As well as enabling seamless communications, its functionality enabled teachers and staff to work efficiently during lockdown, providing instant messaging services and auto-attendance. The delivery has been on-time and all schools that are migrating will be deployed and completed this year, as per the time frame required from the Trust.”
St. Bart’s Multi-Academy Trust
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