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Service continuity is key as Leeds Learning Network takes the managed service route

Smart projects: Network allows teachers to pool resources and schedule work

Continuity of services was a key factor when Leeds Learning Network, a filtered internet service provider for more than 400 schools, libraries and learning centres around Leeds, decided to use a managed service provider.

Patrick Kirk, lifelong learning infrastructure manager at Leeds City Council, said, “We were looking for somebody who understood the impact of systems failing in an education environment. If you have a problem for just five minutes at the start of lesson time it can have an impact on 3,000 classes. About half of teachers would try again, but the others would not log on for the rest of the lesson.”

The £8m contract was awarded to Synetrix following a European tender that Leeds City Council described as “extremely competitive”.

The Leeds Learning Network allows teachers to pool lesson materials between schools, further education colleges and libraries across the city and adopt them to their own teaching style and the type of class they have. Microsoft Outlook also schedules pupils’ homework and teachers’ marking.

Kirk said this had the added benefit of easing the introduction of supply teachers while full-time teachers were sick or on training.

Synetrix’s services for Leeds Learning Network will include a virtual learning platform that will integrate communication and collaboration systems with resources for teaching and learning, and will enable the network to provide a personalised interface for every teacher and student.

Leeds City Council will continue to manage existing Leeds Learning Network technologies, such as local, national and international videoconferencing and voice over IP services to schools, libraries and community centres across Leeds. As the relationship with Synetrix develops, management of these technologies may be transferred.
 
About 30 Leeds schools already use VoIP phones as their primary telephone system. VoIP is providing cost savings and bringing convenience benefits as all staff involved have access to personal phone numbers and voicemail, the council said.
 
“Online teaching and learning have developed considerably over the past five years and our customers’ capabilities and expectations are continually increasing. With Synetrix, we will help Leeds schools to provide top-class online teaching and learning in Leeds,” said Chris Towning, Leeds Learning Network manager.

Initially the Synetrix service will provide a 100mbps link to the internet and a further 100mbps link to the Superjanet national education network.


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