Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA)

BOA is a new build Academy for 750 students in 2013

The Challenge

BOA is a member of the Ormiston Trust and opened as a new build Academy for 750 students in 2013. The Academy has a clear focus on performing arts and operates an e-Learning Development Partnership (eLDP) in conjunction with Gaia. This is a partnership that Gaia has established, at Trust level, and that is designed to;

  • Provide specialist, strategic ICT consultancy, to support academies in transforming teaching and learning
  • Reduce academy ICT costs by taking advantage of aggregated purchases
  • Support development of consistent ICT systems that support collaboration between all Ormiston academies
  • Offer all academy’s equipment and services that meet specific needs and value for money
  • Offer Ormiston sponsored academies quick and easy access to ICT advice.

There is an ‘eLDP Board’ which comprise Ormiston Trust Directors, Gaia MD and Relationship Manager and Principals of the Academies and it is their responsibility to review and monitor the performance of the ICT service. Goods and services are also be reviewed bi-annually and a report produced for all participating academies. This provides a ‘benchmarking’ service and confirmation of the value for money being achieved for a sample selection of ICT goods and services. Gaia also produces an annual activities report summarising the services provides across all Trust schools. In addition OAT undertakes regular customer satisfaction surveys, which are used to monitor services and improve delivery.

What We Did

BOA was a new build Academy project, with no predecessor school, and the initial assumption was that the ICT solution would be supplied by the building contractor. However, Gaynor Cheshire, BOA Academy Principal acknowledges that: “it soon became clear that they (the builders) did not appreciate what the Academy required. I knew what I wanted in terms of the information and management systems but I didn’t know what was required to support the specialist pathways. What I needed was someone who was able to tell me, in terms of innovation, what was available and to work with the Academy.”

It was this realisation that led Gaynor to work with Ormiston’s eLDP, and benefit from Gaia’s ICT solution design service.

When the Academy was released from the building contractor they (the builders) initially refused Gaia access to the building. This was clearly an obstacle! But with strong project management provided by Ormiston and Gaia the Academy was able to move forward and the resulting infrastructure solution, which was designed specifically to support the high levels of video, music and multimedia data that accompanies the teaching of creative arts specialisms includes;

  • Dual Cisco 6509 Core processors and HP servers providing a network with speed, reliability and security
  • Cisco Wireless and telephony facilities delivering accessible communications across the site
  • Canon personal and ‘follow-me’ print facilities for production of high quality graphic arts work

The Gaia supplied and supported solution also includes;

  • Easytrace Cashless Catering,
  • Eclipse library software
  • Hyper V Virtualisation to maximise Server security, performance and availability
  • Citrix to provide secure, remote access facilities for teachers and students
  • And an e-safety solution that features SmoothWall filtering and Impero device user management

The Outcome

This solution now provides an environment that supports development of personal learning pathways. For example dancers need spreadsheet expertise as many students will become freelancers and have to manage their own finances and time. Also they will have to know how to film others or themselves and how to responsibly upload the information. They also need to understand how to use social media to promote themselves and their work.  Gaming students need to become serious programmers and advanced designers and so ICT has been embedded across the curriculum.  The Academy’s students are being increasing asked for e-portfolios which have to be uploaded to certain sites for example applying for work at Channel 4 or enrolling on broadcast courses.  Gaynor has also explained that some of our students have recently gone for an interview at university and they have been put straight into year two of the degree course because of their experience at the Academy.

When asked if the eLDP arrangement is benefiting the academy  Gaynor’s reply was “Yes absolutely, definitely“ and would she recommend the eLDP to other schools considering Academy status?   Yes, because they have done it well so many times they know who to talk to and how to do it, which as a head you don’t know

It is clear that students also appreciate the quality, depth and flexibility of the ICT facilities provided by Gaia. For example Rebecca Mear, a student following the dance pathway, explained that she particularly appreciated the Mac computers which in her words “really helped with her course, and a fellow dancer Dan Lucas  agreed, saying that he found “the computers here help with written and research  work and always work flawlessly

Broadcast students too appreciated the technology, Eleanor Jordan said “broadcast is all about technology, it is really good we can use everything, we need the equipment to be professional standard so we can learn” she went on to say it was the technology available at the Academy that had persuaded her to enrol.  Jake Beech a fellow broadcast student agreed that it was the opportunity to use the equipment that was the major factor in choosing the Academy.

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