Hill House School

As the pandemic persists, while many of us feel the stresses of home education, it’s good to know Connectus is helping keep children educated – and entertained – thanks to high speed, reliable connectivity.

Homeschooling is still a burgeoning concept for many schools, which have been thrown in at the deep end. Education providers face a steep learning curve,not only regarding how to push lessons onto a variety of home-based devices effectively and safely, but also how to manage much larger amounts of data and communications. And these larger data flows in and out of schools need to be handled professionally and securely.

When the primary aim of any school is education, not IT, keeping up with online education demands is a headache.

But this was not the case for Doncaster’s Hill House School, which for many years pre-pandemic had already engaged the services of Connectus to ensure the best possible connectivity for its pupils and staff.

The relationship between the school and Connectus has been long and fruitful, beginning in 2008, when the main concerns for any school then were probably creating a successful website and being able to email parents and stakeholders.

Hill House School is an independent day school for girls and boys aged from 3 to 18, with an enviable reputation for excellence in the region. Maintaining that recognition in 2021 means approaching IT with renewed vigour, a task handed to Kristan Jackson, Network Manager at Hill House School.

Kristan is full of praise for Connectus, which delivers rock-solid connectivity, telecoms and off-site equipment and data storage to the school.

“Connectus is always quick to respond especially for technical queries and support,” says Kristan, adding that the connectivity experts always go the extra mile for the school.

For example, back in 2015, Hill House played host to the BBC radio political debate show ‘Any Questions?’, and called upon Connectus’ expertise to ensure the technology needs of hosting a large, live broadcast event were met.

“We frequently have to adapt to unusual circumstances, and Connectus is always on hand to offer support and adapt their services as required,” says Kristan.

Now, he says the demands of remote working have led to a huge increase in bandwidth requirements.

“All academic staff and pupils now require constant access to ICT resources. The school’s requirements have increased from a few hundred devices to over 500 in a very short period of time,” he says, stressing that “the quality of our educational service and reputation of the school depends upon access to dependable technology.”

As the school’s reliable technology partner, Connectus helped Hill House increase bandwidth and implement failover data solutions.

Further underlining the company’s commitment to assisting the school in ensuring solid, reliable connectivity, Connectus has several onsite engineers. The engineering team performs installations, end user support and any planned maintenance to ensure the school and the growing number of over 250 Connectus clients are cared for.

Connectus’ has been supplying secure leased line connectivity to the school for some time, but in the home learning era, Kristan quickly realised there was a need for much greater bandwidth — so the firm boosted the capacity from 100Mb to 1GB.

As Andy Marsden, Business Development Director at Connectus Group puts it: “We’ve been supplying the school with a leased line for quite a while, but with all the ‘bring your own devices’ to school initiative, and other network demands, we needed to give them something quicker – that’s why we have upgraded their connection to a fully managed 1gbps delivered via our own full-fibre network.”

Alongside using a plethora of different internet-connected devices at home, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) allows pupils to bring their internet-connected learning tools, like laptops and tablets, to school, and with that provision comes a two-fold issue. One, the need for greater bandwidth to keep up with a surge in usage, and two, a need for greater security.

As well as helping pupils fully embrace digital technology and better prepare them for a hyper-connected future, letting devices inside the school premises also brings control over what content is allowed on the pupil’s devices.

The extra bandwidth and BYOD concept will assist in future-proofing learning, too. Kristan explains: “In addition, we envisage exploiting the skills learnt using this new model of blended learning well beyond Covid-19, and to support our more traditional delivery of education.”

Several of Connectus shareholders’ interests also include Chester-based GLUU, a company building a virtual network of global educational leaders and industry experts from the combined worlds of online learning, curriculum creation, publishing, mental health and teacher personal development. Connectus is one of the core technology and managed services providers to GLUU, reinforcing its value add to education-based clients.

Because of that link, Kristan is acutely aware of the advantages of working with Connectus over other companies.

“The Connectus team is actively involved in working to understand the needs of educational establishments like ours, and this shows in how they approach working with us.

“Technology does not automatically bring about educational gains and requires skilled practitioners to exploit its value. Frequently, technology companies are not interested in this aspect of how their technology is used – so having a company with a desire to enter into this field is very welcome,” concludes the network manager.

Meanwhile, Connectus’ Andy adds: “Hill House School is very fortunate to be in a position to take full advantage of technology, of using this time to push the boundaries of blended learning. Connectus is proud to be a key part of its journey, and the pupil’s learning experience. We feel that together, Connectus and Hill House School are working to create truly IT-savvy future citizens.”