Kennet School is a dynamic and ambitious 11-18 co-educational comprehensive school, serving the population of Thatcham and the surrounding villages. As the most over-subscribed school in West Berkshire, the school has grown steadily in terms of numbers, and in the facilities available to its 1720 pupils and 250 staff.
The school is a Technology College and has specialist status in Performing Arts and Languages.
One area where the school has put particular focus is on its technology infrastructure, an area managed by Nina Pollard, the school’s Network Manager. Over the last few years she has been part of the driving force behind over 70 audio visual installations, ranging from SMART Board and projector combinations in the classrooms, through to specialist hall installations in both the main hall and 6th form block.
This approach means that the latest technology is intrinsic to learning, not only in ICT classes, but right across the curriculum. The school’s strategy has been implemented with the support of Smarter Interactive, the school’s preferred technology provider and hall installation specialists, with whom Ms Pollard has worked for several years.
Early into their technology programme, Deputy Head Peter Jenkins identified an opportunity to get much more value from their hall by installing audio visual equipment, so increasing the ways in which it could be used. Faced with this brief, Ms Pollard turned to Smarter Interactive for advice on what could be achieved. Discussions with the school identified three clear objectives for the school hall – the ability to make assemblies more interactive, facilities to make whole school presentations, and support for the drama department in providing backdrops for theatre productions.
The installation comprising of a projector and electric screen linked into a custom made lectern with a SMART Sympodium was completed in 2006, however this year a fire devastated the stage area, meaning that the whole area had to be redone. This disaster did, however, mean the school could take advantage of the very latest developments in school hall installations.
Jon Knight from Smarter Interactive recommended a solution that included a ceiling mounted NP4000 NEC projector. This model has built in digital lens shift, cornerstone and keystone correction, which means it can be mounted very high above the screen and off centre if necessary. It also has the facility to attach a short throw lens which gives added flexibility in terms of positioning.
The projector was combined with a 4 metre electric screen that can be dropped down during use and raised into the lighting frame when not needed. These two basic components were integrated with a DVD and VHS player, mounted into a lockable cabinet for security. Finally, the installation included a wall mounted AMX 16 button room control panel, from which all the equipment is powered on and off, and which makes switching from PC to DVD or VHS a matter of simply pressing one button. The integration of the control panel means the use of the whole installation is incredibly simple for any user with minimal training.
Mr Jenkins comments “Our main school hall is used for assemblies and meetings on a daily basis. Our staff and pupils expect to deliver and receive high quality presentations. However our hall use is many facetted and we needed a flexible system. Smarter Interactive planned and installed a screen and projector with easy access to our mobile presenter with interactive facilities. It is easy to use and highly in demand.”
According to Ms Pollard, there is an immediate ‘wow’ factor when walking into the hall due to the sheer size of the screen. “It’s great to show material from a computer onto a screen that all pupils can see with ease“ she said. “And with our Performing Arts status, drama is very important to the school – the facilities in our hall means there’s a real level of professionalism in our theatre productions.”
Ms Pollard’s advice to other schools looking to increase the use of their hall is to talk to a hall installation specialist. “You need someone who understands what is involved and will look for workable solutions. Smarter Interactive have proved themselves to be knowledgeable, reliable and responsive whatever we ask of them.”
A further installation has also recently been completed in the sixth form area. The equipment is similar, although a slightly less bright projector has been used, because it is a smaller area. This project includes digital notice boards showing on LCD screens, which have ‘News 24’ running in the background on low volume, keeping the older students informed about current affairs. A window within the screens contains house keeping messages and reminders such as “keep the common room clean and tidy”. A separate scrolling window notifies students of current internal events such as room changes, exam dates or 6th form staff off site. It’s a highly flexible communication tool, as the information can be swiftly altered as it changes.
The same system is used in the main reception of the school where school event photos and videos are shown and announcements for upcoming events are advertised to anyone passing through reception.
Asked to comment on the success of the school’s technology programme, Mr Jenkins said “Here at Kennet we have used Smarter Interactive to install all our interactive facilities. They are able to find answers to all our problems. No project we have given them has been straightforward. Their attention to detail in ensuring the project is managed well is important to us. Although we have been clients for some years, they always make us feel that our work is important to them. We have used them as whole package providers – installation, training and development.”