Like most schools today, West Hatch High School is heavily committed to the use of information and communications technology (ICT) for teaching and learning, parental engagement, and administration. The school has five IT suites for general use, two suites for media and music, and three in the business and enterprise department. Sets of portable computers are also available in subject departments for teachers use in class. To take even greater advantage of ICT and establish West Hatch as a hub of anytime, anywhere learning, administrators implemented Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2010 while virtualising the school’s servers, cutting more than £12,000 a year on hardware and running costs. Future expansion is now affordable because the system can be scaled easily, in line with the school’s future needs.Situation
West Hatch High School is a specialist business, enterprise, and humanities college in Essex, United Kingdom (U.K.), with 1,300 students. In March 2009, Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) judged West Hatch to be “Good,” with several “Outstanding” aspects. The school holds Investors in People status and National Healthy Schools and Sports Mark awards.
||I teach in 13 different classrooms. I want to be able to go into any room in any building in the school knowing that I can use ICT to teach the lesson I’ve planned.
West Hatch School
For teachers and students to take full advantage of the technology available at West Hatch, it had to work on demand whenever needed. West Hatch Deputy Headteacher Penny Johnson, the school’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Strategic Lead, says: “I teach in 13 different classrooms. I want to be able to go into any room in any building in the school knowing that I can use ICT to teach the lesson I’ve planned.” Until 2008, West Hatch students and staff had no guarantee of their network’s reliability, which meant it was underused. West Hatch Information Systems Manager, Alan Richards, says: “Teachers will try things two or three times, but after that, if a lesson’s wrecked, they won’t risk it again.”
It was clear to the school’s senior staff that if the full benefits of technology were to be realised, a considerable programme of work—and investment—would be needed. This included replacing most of the school’s network with virtual servers installed on significantly fewer physical machines. Before that, though, the condition of the network itself had to be addressed.Solution
Richards arrived at West Hatch in May 2008, as part of the school’s strategy to address its ICT challenges. His first concern was the school’s network. Like many schools, West Hatch built its network by responding to a succession of short-term demands. “The infrastructure had built up over a number of years and was difficult to manage,” says Richards.
The school’s governing body decided that infrastructure problems could only be solved by a complete refurbishment. The governors agreed on a six-year, £1.5 million plan to transform the school’s ICT. The first step was to rebuild the whole school network, complete with new fibre-optic and network cabling and a managed mobile solution.
A school network will usually have one server for each of a number of functions, such as the management information system, virtual learning environment (VLE), printers, and the library. When a system is virtualised, physical hardware is replaced with virtual servers that are housed in clusters on a smaller number of machines. To reap the full benefits of virtualisation, Richards researched the project thoroughly—even visiting other schools to see how they were using virtualisation in practice.
||Our staff have confidence in the use of ICT now. They know they can go into a classroom, turn on the computer, and have the applications they need for their lesson up and running in seconds.
West Hatch School
Richards and his team ran a pilot programme using Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V technology for an entire year with two virtual servers on one physical server. They looked at ease of use, energy savings, and reliability, measuring use across the network—at West Hatch, administrators used Microsoft Network Monitor and performance logs and alerts on all the servers.
Following the pilot, West Hatch moved to a virtualised server environment, replacing 24 physical servers with nine. Of these, five run the virtualised environment. The remaining four work as standalone single-function servers. The firewall and the domain controller stand apart from the network on their own servers. Benefits
By virtualising the school’s IT infrastructure, West Hatch provides a stable environment for teachers and administrators to the 21st century tools that encourage anytime, anywhere learning. Improved collaboration and communication creates an atmosphere of greater parental engagement, efficient administration, and interaction between students and their peers and teachers. The school saves more than £12,000 a year with virtualisation, including savings on energy and maintenance.
High Availability Offers Better Support for Teaching and Learning
A key goal for administrators at West Hatch is to improve the school’s “Good” Ofsted rating to “Outstanding.” To do this, a responsive and reliable ICT network is vital. Virtualisation provides the system with the ability to deal seamlessly with the failure of a server, an event that can even occur in the best-maintained networks. It does this by automatically moving all its services to another while the rest of the school doesn’t even know it’s happened. “Our staff have confidence in the use of ICT now. They know they can go into a classroom, turn on the computer, and have the applications they need for their lesson up and running in seconds,” says Richards.
Johnson adds: “We’re a good school. We’re proud of our achievements, but we’re also focused on continuous improvement, and the virtualisation project is an important part of that. Students expect to use ICT in their learning anytime and anywhere—in school and at home—but teachers can only meet those needs if the systems in place are reliable and responsive. With our new server environment, we’ll have a secure infrastructure on which we can build our vision of 21st-century learning.”
Stable Environment Provides Anytime, Anywhere Learning
With students logging onto the school’s VLE from home, it needs to be available at all hours. Previously, if Office SharePoint Server failed outside of school hours, students were not able to log on to the system. Now two virtual servers accommodate rapidly rising demand for the VLE. If one fails, the other takes over providing continuous service.
School closures due to snow storms in early 2010 further illustrated how online learning and Microsoft Office Live Meeting can help keep teachers and students in touch. Richards says: “We realise the importance of learning outside the classroom, so we’re looking at the overall picture. Our IT infrastructure is designed to cover student and community needs by providing an alternative during unforeseen circumstances, such as inclement weather, as well as enriching education with anywhere, anytime learning.”
Virtualisation Saves more than £12,000 a Year
By reducing yearly hardware spend, West Hatch immediately saves £7,000 a year. Even though a server that is powerful enough to run a virtual system will be more expensive than previous hardware, fewer machines are needed, both for initial purchase and for replacement. In addition to hardware, the school saves a further £5,000 a year on electricity and maintenance, saving money and reducing the school’s carbon footprint. "The total projected annual savings of £12000 which is a conservative estimate, is significant in a tightly controlled school budget. It amounts to half the salary of a newly qualified teacher," says Richards.
Streamlined Environment Leaves Room for Growth
The ICT infrastructure takes up less space, providing plenty of room for the school to scale its environment in line with future needs and technology releases.
“Whenever administrators or teaching staff need a new system, it’s easy to set up a virtual machine. IT staff can load the software, run it, test it, and move it into the production environment in a matter of weeks, providing the opportunity to respond quickly to initiatives,” says Richards.Microsoft Server Product Portfolio
For more information about the Microsoft server product portfolio, go to:
www.microsoft.com/servers/For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about West Hatch High School products and services, visit the Web site at: www.westhatch.essex.sch.ukThis case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.