Wireless upgrade puts school’s network at the top of the class

Aug 16, 2020

Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School in Aylesbury.

SIR Henry Floyd Grammar school in Aylesbury is reaping the benefits of improved wireless connectivity and has future-proofed the capability of its network with a hyper-reliable, cloud managed wireless solution. 

The school’s new ExtremeCloud IQ WiFi 6, delivered and installed by Milton Keynes-based specialist Redway Networks, will support digital teaching and learning by providing a secure, robust wireless network for over 1,300 pupils. 

Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, is a mixed secondary school and part of the Insignis Academy Trust.  The trust is committed to using the latest technology to enhance learning and teaching and being a Google school, all students have their own Chromebooks for learning.  

With teachers’ laptops and other connecting devices (such as smart phones which students can have on them during the day) typically over 3,000 devices are connecting to the school’s network. So, a robust, secure wireless network infrastructure is essential. 

As the number of devices within the school grew and it deployed more technology and newer hardware, it became apparent that the school’s existing Ruckus WiFi couldn’t cope with all the devices connecting to the network, so it needed to improve the infrastructure.    

John Huskinson, chief operations officer at Insignis Academy Trust, said: “Our legacy Ruckus WiFi solution was not ideally located or configured, and we knew it would not cope well with the school’s increase in devices and digital learning.  

“Our trust is committed to having the latest technology that is fit for purpose so it was obvious we needed a new high-performance WiFi solution that would seamlessly connect all the school’s devices and could support the whole end-to-end IT experience.” 

As the school upgraded all its staff laptops and more devices and smart phones required compatibility with WiFi 6, the trust identified that to support the school’s future network capacity it needed to go for a ‘big bang’ and upgrade its Ruckus system4 with a new robust WiFi 6 solution that would future-proof the school in terms of technology for the next ten years. 

After researching educational WiFi providers, the trust shortlisted two suppliers for Sir Henry Floyd’s proposed wireless local area network (WLAN).  

“We wanted a single system that could provide seamless network capacity and handle our traffic requirements both now and for the future,” said Mr Huskinson. “We also required a cloud-managed system for complete network visibility, which is important when students have their own device.  I was impressed with Redway Networks’ reputation and experience within the education sector and I liked the fact that they were relatively local in Milton Keynes.”  

After evaluating both ExtremeCloud and Meraki, Redway Networks came out on top for both products in terms of cost and technical knowledge. 

“Redway Networks really understood our requirements and we felt that the ExtremeCloud IQ had the slight edge over Meraki as it was more intuitive and had better technical functionality,” Mr Huskinson added. “For example, I really liked Extreme’s Atom AP30, which acts as an extension of the school’s network and provides enterprise network access for staff working from home. I was also reassured by the fact Redway Networks is an Extreme gold partner and ExtremeWireless Specialist.”      

Once ExtremeCloud IQ was chosen, Redway Networks had to configure the new wireless infrastructure, which would normally be done through an Ekahau site survey. However, as the school was closed due to Coronavirus, the survey had to be completed on paper using a theoretical heat mapping configuration. 

This was then verified using Ekahau Sidekick to determine signal strength and access point (AP) positioning. 

 “I was very impressed with the amount of time Redway spent with us on the mapping,” said Mr Huskinson. “For example, going through the detail over and over again and answering all our questions to make sure all of our network requirements were met and all the visualisations on the map were green so we got the solution right first time.”  

The new ExtremeCloud IQ WiFi 6 solution included 63 APs installed on the ground and first floors of the school.  

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“We now have a high-performance, secure WiFi 6 infrastructure that will support our technology needs for the next ten years.  We were also able to reuse most of the Ruckus system in our Princes Risborough school which had an even older WiFi infrastructure than Sir Henry Floyd, so in fact, both our schools have benefitted from this project,” said Mr Huskinson.  

Redway Networks has committed to troubleshoot any network issues should they arise once the school is at full capacity.  

“The flexibility we have received from Redway Networks around coronavirus has been brilliant and I know if we have any future issues Redway will jump on it and sort it out – even if that means installing additional access points,” said Mr Huskinson. 

Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School now has a hyper-reliable, cloud-managed WiFi 6 solution that will enable technology-driven teaching and learning and support the school’s digital transformation strategy for years to come.  

“In five years’ time every student at the school will be tapping into videos and streaming in high definition and teachers will be using more video and AI for teaching and I am confident that any amount of traffic we throw at our new network will not kill the WiFi,” said Mr Huskinson.

“I am very happy with our ExtremeCloud IQ and I have been really impressed by the service and support we’ve received from Redway. They have been great throughout the whole process and I feel that we have formed a real partnership.” 

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