Fowey Community College

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Fowey Community College, Cornwall, is an 11-16 comprehensive specialising in technology, serving a large and diverse catchment area with 920 students and 65 teaching staff. The college has a high reputation within the community, and the excellent relationships between pupils and staff provide an ethos that effectively supports and encourages learning.

Key to developing and supporting these relationships is effective communication between the college and the wider community. In particular, ensuring there are good lines of communication between parents and teachers is essential, for example to aid the September enrolments, update parents on school events or in the event of a closure due to a security or public health alert. The college realised that upgrading its telecoms solution to include additional functionality presented an opportunity to enhance its relationship with the community.

Lisa Kelly, the College’s Cornish Bursar Group representative, commented: “We were struggling with the previous system; it was cumbersome and had ceased to support our needs both in terms of its size and its potential for us to implement additional functionality. There were situations where we couldn’t make or receive calls because the system was unreliable and this was a real hindrance to our basic communications.” The college does not have a dedicated IT Manager so these ongoing issues were a significant challenge for the school staff and teachers. Dropped calls and system failures were becoming increasingly prevalent, an issue that prevented parents and teachers working closer together, and from communicating effectively with the wider community. There was also a need to increase the security by tracking when calls are made and to which destination.

Feature Rich Solution

Lisa Kelly worked closely with TTG, part of Toshiba reseller Excell roup PLC, to develop a bespoke solution with a wide range of features that together formed an effective communications platform. The school chose a Strata CIX670 system from Toshiba with IP5022 featurephones which uses Voice over IP (VoIP) for internal calls and traditional telephone lines for outside calls. Further cost reductions were made through the introduction of a new call tariff from TTG. The new system further enables enhanced flexibility when adding and changing extensions, a feature which is particularly useful during peak times such as when exam results are announced.

The new platform also offers the school a number of additional features. Personalised voicemail functionality means that each teacher/member of staff can be reached directly by parents, and through an IP Softphone set up on a shared laptop, teachers can retrieve messages and make calls from the staff room. This relieves pressure on reception staff considerably as they do not need to take messages for teachers as often – during busy times such as September enrolment this is particularly beneficial.

Auto Attendant answers and distributes calls more directly throughout the school. A voicemail system is now in place where teachers can leave updates by dialling into the mail box remotely to provide progress reports and updated travel information for parents to dial into. This is also incredibly useful when adverse weather conditions affect school opening hours, as staff can update the voicemail remotely providing a central source of information that parents can easily dial into to find out if the school will open. With both scenarios parents can dial the school and use the Auto Attendant functionality to reach the appropriate message which creates an extremely efficient communications set-up.

The Future

The functionality the solution offers the school is as easily scalable as it is flexible. For example, additional lines could be utilised for services such as a confidential bullying line, or sex education line. Through examining different ways to communicate with parents and the community, the different tools now available to Fowey Community College means it can continue to improve the availability of information to parents, pupils and the local community. Lisa Kelly adds: “The improvements we are now able to make to our day to day communications are considerable, now we have a reliable system that is flexible enough to cope with the college’s changing demands, the benefits can truly be felt by the college and the wider community.”

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“The improvements we are able to make to our day-to-day communications are considerable, now we have a reliable system that is flexible enough to cope with the college’s changing demands, the benefits can truly be felt by the college and the wider community.”