Latest technology complements Lode Heath School’s new hall
Lode Heath School and Sports College, based in Solihull in the West Midlands, offers a broad and inclusive curriculum with high academic standards. Their 1000 students are encouraged to take part in a wide range of extra curricular activities such as Drama, Music, Debate, Green Club and Sports.
The school enjoys a High Performing Specialist School status and recently applied for a second specialism in science, which was successful and started in April 2008.
A recent achievement for the school was the building of a brand new school hall facility. Shaped at one end like the prow of a boat, the hall is architecturally impressive and to complement this has been equipped with the very latest in technological tools. IT Manager Afzan Matloob specified the equipment for the hall after taking advice from school hall specialists Smarter Interactive.
The shape of the hall demanded two 2 x 4m screens angled together on the pointed end of the hall. Electrically operated, the screens drop down for use and disappear into the ceiling when not required. Two ceiling mounted NEC NP2000 projectors are positioned to project onto the screens, and are complemented by two 46” LCD screens installed half way down the length of the room. This combination ensures every member of the audience has a good view of the material being shown wherever they are sitting. The equipment is all linked together through a switcher, with full audio facilities delivered through wall mounted speakers.
Control of all the equipment is simply achieved, using two AMX 16 button control panels. Smarter Interactive’s recommendation was to have one panel at the front for teaching and presentation purposes, and one at the back of the room for instances when there is no presenter – for example during a school production. The panels remove the need for numerous remote controls and mean that any member of staff can walk up and start using the equipment with very little training.
The installation offers huge flexibility as the projectors and LCD screens can show different material. This facility came into its own during Parents’ Evening, where a school video was shown on the LCD screens whilst the Head Teacher presented material at the front of the hall. The room can even be split and used for two different events simultaneously.
Mr Matloob is delighted with the installation and with the way it was handled. “This proved to be a very challenging project” he said. “The hall has a very high acoustic ceiling and the tiles had been sealed by the builders. Restrictions of the build also meant that the screens could not be hung as originally planned. Smarter Interactive worked around these problems, suggesting viable solutions and then got on with the job. They worked to an extremely tight deadline, completing the work over a weekend for an important presentation on the Monday morning.
We also had to have the floor re-laid and the contractors disturbed some of the AV cabling. Our Smarter Interactive account manager came out and sorted it all out for us. The key is that they understand the school environment and bend over backwards to work with you.”
Feedback on the hall facility from both staff and pupils is universally good. “Everyone is really impressed – and already the kids are benefitting. For example, we have had an Internet Safety presentation to parents by West Midlands Police. And at Christmas, we held a karaoke party which the children really enjoyed. In the New Year over 500 pupils and parents attended a multi media options evening which was extremely successful.”
The hall facility not only enriches the daily lives of the pupils, but is also becoming an important additional revenue stream as a conference and events venue that can be hired out. Already a local primary school has hired the hall for their end of year play, and another is planning to use it for a Dance Festival later this year.
According to Mr. Matloob, the installation was planned with an eye to the future. “It was crucial that the whole system was future proof. We’ve achieved the very best we could with the budget we had – but I want this to be a process we can build on. My plans include the use of digital signage to link up the new facility with the old hall. I know that when I go back to Smarter Interactive they will work with me to help me meet my objectives – it’s reassuring to work with a partner you can trust.”