The Skinners’ Kent Academy ICT case study

“In the true spirit of partnership Novatia quickly became a trusted member of the team and went the extra yard, providing insightful strategic, financial and operational ideas … that helped us at a time when we needed it most."

Sian Carr


Skinners’ Kent Academy

Skinners’ Kent Academy

More than a contract—a trusted and strategic partner

Novatia's work with the Skinners' Kent Academy has set the foundation for the strongest kind of partnership, with ICT underpinning the Academy's strategy for school improvement. The Academy has faced a unique challenge in recovering from an underperforming, under-subscribed predecessor school. As one of the only non-selective state secondary schools in Tunbridge Wells, significant reputation repair was required to remedy declining roll due to local competition from grammar, private and state schools in competing authorities. Along with its new purpose-built building, provision and use of high-quality, media-rich, engaging technologies was seen as a unique selling point for the Academy and continues to be a key differentiator for young people in their local choice of school.

Novatia's input to the change strategy and work in developing the ICT Vision and Functional Specification have ensured a solid foundation on which to launch the improvement program. Novatia committed to the success of the ICT Vision and its implementation, as these have been so vital to achieving the Academy's aims.

Through high quality engagement with the Academy's SLT, Novatia designed the ICT Vision to address an innovative approach to the curriculum and creative use of facilities. Workshops were held to identify how ICT could best support delivery of the Middle Years IB programme and the Science and Engineering Specialisms, resulting in specialist spaces that allow for practical and innovative teaching towards engineering, scientific and research careers. Years 7 and 8 students are taught using a primary school model with teachers roaming to students in Group Rooms and extended practical learning taking place in the open, ICT-rich Da Vinci Space which is supported by mobile audio-visual technologies. We developed the Functional Specification to make best use of technologies to support flexibility in learning within and beyond the Academy. The SLT has enthusiastically specified tools that supported extended learning such as video conferencing, video recording, terminal services, virtual desktop infrastructure and application streaming.

Our tested approaches saw an efficient, first-time DfE approval of the ICT elements of the Academy's Outline and Final Business Cases leading to successful procurement of the Builder with high-impact ICT fully integrated into the design. For example, Academy requirements for extensive use of outdoor spaces supported by ICT across three physical sites required well-coordinated integration of the outdoor wireless solution (which was demarcated as an ICT contractor responsibility) with other services such as CCTV (which was demarcated as a Build contractor responsibility).

Novatia supported procurement of the Builder through writing the ICT-related Authority's Requirements, including specifications and ICT design integration guidelines, and through evaluation of Contractor's Proposals. We led the ICT detailed engagement during Preferred Bidder stage whereby Novatia documentation was agreed with the Build contractor and included as agreed in the Contractor's Proposals for this 92% new build, 8% refurbishment project.

Innovative procurement to meet the Trust's wider requirements

The successful delivery of the solution, envisaged by the ICT Vision and Functional Specification, required the selection and appointment of an ICT Supplier that would wholeheartedly embrace the Academy's ideals and spirit of partnership. Novatia proposed and gained agreement for a unique procurement strategy that allowed for the ICT contract to be delivered to the Academy individually, but also allowed for extension to all Trust-sponsored institutions. This not only saved on future consultancy costs, this approach stimulated greater supplier interest.

Novatia's extensive knowledge of the ICT Supply market (we invest time informing the market of upcoming bids to ensure their sales capacity is in place to respond to our tenders) meant that we were able to stimulate and excite the market through soft market testing. A successful tender was run which exceeded expectations, resulting in a significant, high quality response from the market. The increased competition saw the Academy gaining considerably better value for money with creative added value services also offered by the ICT Supplier. We evaluated each bid in-depth, leading an impartial workshop to select the bidders for interview. The interviews confirmed the high quality of the bidders, affording the Academy the opportunity of selecting a true partner, able to deliver added value in support of the Academy's aims.

Novatia negotiated the contract with the successful ICT Contractor using a payment profile based upon a set of contract milestones which were designed to drive good practice on the part of the ICT Contractor. Late penalties were incorporated as leverage against programme slippage due to Academy pressures around a decant programme.

Introduction of 1:1 iPad scheme

Our contract was extended to support the Academy's aims to use iPads on a 1:1 basis. This was achieved through provision of commercial advice resulting in the launch of a successful parental contribution programme and guidance around the day-to-day administration of the programme.

Recruitment and Induction Support

Novatia also supported the Academy in its recruitment of its Head of IT Services and Network Manager. We wrote the job descriptions, vetted applications, and participated in the interview process which included the development and assessment of technical tasks, resulting in the appointment of high calibre individuals. Novatia then developed and delivered a 3-day induction programme for the new appointments and the existing IT Technician. The programme included a technical skills analysis resulting in a training plan which prioritized immediate needs for professional development across the team. ITIL processes were introduced, focusing on improvements to the Help Desk, problem management and financial management. Documentation was gathered for all support and maintenance contracts, resulting in a programme for renewal fees and dates. Lastly, Novatia interviewed and recommended a 3rd party support company who was appointed for 3rd line Citrix support to supplement the in-house service.

Our numbers speak for themselves