Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust is a large multi academy trust in the north east of England. The trust currently contains 21 schools in the South Tyneside, Durham and Sunderland area. Under Roman Catholic Diocesan growth plans, the trust will grow to contain 34 schools by July 2022, making it one of the largest multi academy trusts in the country.
The Trust aspires to provide outstanding education to all children and young people attending its schools.
As a collective of schools, the Trust has enhanced buying power and is keen to use its scale to achieve best value when procuring and purchasing goods and services. This approach will ensure all available funding is maximised to benefit students. To support this approach, the Trust enlisted the support of Commercial Lead, Julie Collins. Julie has a wealth of experience in the procurement and education sector and is passionate about ensuring positive outcomes for children and young people are realised.
Julie has worked collaboratively with the Trust to develop a procurement strategy and plan which prioritises key areas of spend/demand. One group of the priority areas identified by the Trust and Julie was connectivity, telephony and filtering services. With several providers, differing cost models and solutions across the schools in the Trust, this was a challenge, but by working closely with Paul Harrison, the Trust’s IT Manager, Julie developed a comprehensive and compliant tender process using a Department of Education approved YPO framework.
After a competitive tender process which included a full written submission and presentation, we were successfully awarded the Trust’s connectivity, telephony and filtering contract in October 2020.
Our proposal to the trust was a future-proof, fully resilient, discrete network, from which schools benefited with leased line provision (speeds of 100Mbps – 1Gbps), this was complemented by the inclusion of robust firewalling and a centralised Smoothwall filtering solution, which complies with all Ofsted standards and requirements. The proposal also included a feature rich Mitel telephony solution which would enable schools to benefit from the latest SIP technology.
Since contract award, the Trust and ourselves have developed an excellent partnership working arrangement which has resulted in the first stages of the project being delivered ahead of schedule.
Madeleine Hope, Chief Finance Officer for the trust said,
‘The new contract will provide each school in the Trust with an upgraded, future-proofed system with an unrivalled support contract in place. The majority of academies within the Trust will benefit from cost savings as a result of the broadband element of the contract whilst benefitting from enhanced provision. On the telephony side, academies will avoid the significant capital expenditure required to maintain and regularly update/upgrade their telephony systems’.
Paul Harrison, IT Manager of the Trust, said,
‘The infrastructure team at Durham County Council have been hugely supportive during the migration process between the former broadband, telephony and web filtering systems and our new solution. The team worked closely with us during the planning, testing and deployment phases. The testing process was rigorous and conducted out of hours which resulted in minimum disruption to our schools. The support offered post-migration has been second to none from the Durham team. There is a true spirit of partnership between the Trust’s IT Team and the Infrastructure Team at Durham County Council which ensures that we are delivering a first class solution and service to our pupils and staff. Our schools are now part of a bespoke, fault tolerant network that we can use to further develop our IT systems to allow our pupils, staff and members of the communities that we serve, to become the best version of themselves.’
We are committed to providing better outcomes for its community and the wider region. As a national leader with regard to social value, we were keen to offer social benefits. To this end, we have committed 200 hours of social value time for the trust to use to enhance the curriculum for their children and young people. To deliver on this, we have worked closely with the Trust to develop a programme of social value activities that will not only benefit children and young people, but also teachers and parents. To date we have delivered four cyber security awareness sessions to 12 teachers and over 250 students. These sessions are designed to bring the curriculum to life by using current, real-world industry examples of theory in practice. Similar sessions will be delivered to parents to educate them on cyber security, giving helpful tips and information on how to protect them and their children in their everyday lives.
Brendan Tapping CEO of the Trust said,
‘Our Trust is growing rapidly, and this has involved a lot of procurement activity. A social value element is now being included as a significant part of all our significant value tender processes. The implementation of the connectivity, telephony and filtering contract recently awarded to Durham County Council has been exceptionally successful. The support that the Durham team have provided as part of the social value initiative around cyber security has been very well received by students and staff. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership to help us achieve our Trust goals of Better schools, Better communities and Better futures in Christ.
Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust and ourselves have developed an excellent working relationship based on flexibility and transparency. As public sector organisations, both realise the enormous pressure facing school budgets and work collaboratively to achieve best value to ensure school funds can be spent on delivering outstanding education to children and young people.