Avonbourne Trust

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Creating unity between schools

The Avonbourne Trust, a multi-academy organisation founded in 2012, needed to integrate communications between it’s two colleges in Bournemouth. Despite being located on the same site – sitting just a stone’s throw from one another – the two colleges’ communications systems were operating in silos, which was impacting negatively upon daily operations.

The challenge of legacy systems

The communications IT infrastructure that was previously in place struggled to cope with the demands of running the two schools – incoming calls would often go to the wrong administrative office, causing delays when trying to locate and transfer calls to the correct person. The existing systems comprised of a challenging concoction of dated cables and legacy systems built by different manufacturers, and subsequently suffered from a lack of unity.

This complicated set-up also contributed to the system being occasionally prone to failure and difficult to repair. The schools need to have always-on communications, particularly to handle urgent parent enquiries or situations such as fire drills, so a reliable system was of utmost importance.

If anything on the old system needed to be repaired, added or changed – even something as simple as tweaking the voicemail functionality – it had to be done by an external contractor, which was not only time-consuming but came at an additional, and often unnecessary cost.

As a school, cost-effectiveness and reliability are essential when it comes to IT solutions. The Avonbourne Trust therefore knew it had to upgrade its communications system and started to work with TTG, part of the Excell Group, in order to determine the best course of action.

“Streamlining our communications systems into one integrated platform was a logical and necessary step. We had two colleges operating separately, which meant that contacting different staff and buildings was often an arduous process that took much longer than it should have. Efficient communications were needed in order to better connect staff, pupils and parents, enabling the smoother day-to-day running of both establishments. For example, it is now much easier to ensure that pupils from both colleges can best make use of the combined facilities we offer, simply by contacting the relevant building or staff member to check availability and make bookings.”
Paul Pearce of The Avonbourne Trust

Strata CIX670 – integrated, functional telephony

TTG recommended the Toshiba Strata CIX670 system as the solution to replace the existing ageing telephony systems. The Toshiba platform was chosen not only for its value, but also to offer greater efficiency through having the capacity to centralise all of the schools’ services.

The Trust now has lines to both schools operating on the same phone system, allowing integration and better collaboration while still operating as two separate establishments. Communications are now aligned across all buildings and staff, which allows for features including shared voicemail and call recording to manage any potentially difficult or important conversations.
The Strata CIX670 can also now be managed on-site by the schools themselves, which offers substantial cost-savings and also means that in the rare case of a system failure, the school can be back up and running again much more quickly than was previously possible.

Paul Pearce at Avonbourne Trust says: “The Toshiba Strata CIX670 has dramatically enhanced the way we run our operations at our schools. It’s robustness has given both reliability and confidence, compared to previously when we were susceptible to downtime and costly maintenance work. Bringing communications together is invaluable, allowing us to collaborate better not only internally but also externally with parents, which is important for their peace of mind.”

Phil Jones from TTG, said “When it comes to the education sector, Toshiba’s support and expertise really is second to none. We have worked with Toshiba for a long time and the company continues to live by its reputation, offering excellent value as well as fantastic hands-on support. When it came to assessing Avonbourne’s needs, once we had determined the problem, the Strata CIX670 was the obvious solution. As a single-box solution, it fits the needs of the Avonbourne Trust perfectly in providing a simple yet reliable system that can connect its colleges at a cost-effective price.”

Future plans

The Avonbourne Trust’s confidence in Toshiba and TTG is demonstrated further as it plans to introduce the system into its new primary school that opened this academic year – a project for which the first phase is already underway. “Despite only opening this year, we have plans to expand the primary into a large school. The CIX’s scalability means that we can simply expand the existing system as the establishment grows, allowing us to control our IT expenditure. We’re delighted with both the support we have received from TTG as well as the performance of the Toshiba telephony system, and hope to continue to work together as we expand.”