First Class Technologies upgraded a computer network of 500 computers at a secondary school in a deprived area – giving pupils valuable tools and skills to improve their future job prospects, with a pool of laptops used by the students aged 11-18.

ICT support specialists migrated classroom PCs at Washwood Heath Academy from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and updated other essential software.

First Class Technologies won the contract after a competitive tendering process, completing the project on time and to budget.

The upgrade is crucial for the 1,400-plus pupils at the academy as it enables them to keep up to speed with the latest technology.

Nearly two-thirds of the students speak English as a second language and live in a part of the city where 57 per cent of children are growing up in poverty.  The Windows 10 upgrade means students in a disadvantaged area are using more advanced software than most UK schools.

The up-to-date system would help prepare the youngsters for working in an IT-driven economy and also allow them to work more efficiently. FCT Managing Director Richard Hinton said, “Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 will benefit the pupils greatly. They will be learning how to use computer programmes and systems commonly found in the workplace and at home. The vast majority of businesses we partner are running Windows 10, so it’s essential the pupils know how to use it when they leave school.”

Robert Bruce, FCT Project manager added: “Many schools are still running Windows 7. Washwood Heath Academy is in a disadvantaged area, but as far as their computers go they now have a head start. We’ve also installed the latest version of Microsoft Office and updated the servers to create a state-of-the-art platform. This will give them a leg up the employment ladder later on. Day to day, they’ll notice a massive increase in the processing speed of the computers and they will be able to use all the latest apps in class as well.”

First Class Technologies routinely works in schools, providing technical expertise and ICT solutions in the primary and secondary sectors. This was the latest of many contracts the firm has won at Washwood Heath Academy. Previously it has extended the structured cable plant, installed many interactive white board and projector solutions and more recently Smart Touch Panels. In addition, ten years ago the company designed an original wireless network to give staff access anywhere on the campus to information about pupils, including details of academic performance, medical records and any truancy patterns.

Washwood Heath Academy’s strategic ICT manager praises FCT’s friendly and efficient service. Acting Head, Lynn Petrie said: “The advanced system will help our students in a number of areas of the curriculum including maths, English, writing and communicating. We have gained an excellent reputation locally, nationally and internationally through our academic success. We want the best for our young people and we are proud to be at the forefront of IT education. This will be a great asset to all our pupils.”

The latest project was planned with the guidance of Joanne Lea, Washwood Heath Academy’s strategic ICT manager. Joanne said: “I wanted support in migrating our PCs to Windows 10 from a company that had done it before and has a lot of experience in the school environment. I found Robert Bruce, the engineer who led the project to be friendly, personable and very efficient in carrying out the upgrade and ensuring my IT Technicians know how to maintain the new set-up.”

Technical specifications of the project:
• Upgrade 3 x virtual Domain Servers from Windows Server 2008 to the latest
version, Windows Server 2016
• Build new Windows Server 2016 Physical DC Server
• Upgrade AD to Windows Server 2016 functional level
• Replace Windows Server 2008 Print Server with Server Windows Server 2016
• Build Windows desktop deployment solution
• Implement 2016 Group Policies for Windows 10
• Configure and test Classroom station types for Windows 10 deployment
• Configure & test all Windows 10 related GPOs for student profile lockdown

Deployment Solution
Washwood Heath Academy requested a tool that could deploy Windows 10 efficiently and with the least amount of manual intervention.

First Class Technologies implemented a new Windows Server 2016 solution based on Windows Deployment services. It built, customised and prepared a ‘one-size fits all’ master image which can be deployed to every PC in the school. This simplifies the management of the network and means students have the same experience wherever they are in the school. A solution has been put in place to streamline licence management for Microsoft Windows and Office products, reducing the manual input required from IT staff when classrooms and PCs are deployed with the image.

This applies to all classroom PCs and a pool of 10 student laptops. There is also scope to extend it to staff laptops when staff return from the summer break.

The project has been an opportunity to upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit Windows and increase the RAM on each PC which will greatly increase computer speed, allowing students to work more efficiently.

The deployment solution (including KMS activation management) will allow the school’s IT staff to easily upgrade and manage all PCs simultaneously – or individual computers if required.

Washwood Heath Academy’s domain servers and print server have been updated to the latest version of Windows Server, to help keep the school’s network secure as it will benefit from the latest updates & support from Microsoft.