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Dudley Council the historic capital of the Black Country
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Dudley Grid for Learning

Dudley Grid for Learning (DGfL) is a well-established and highly successful partnership between Dudley educational establishments, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and RM Education.

The original Private Finance Initiative (PFI) partnership began in 1999 and provided educational establishments with a fully managed ICT service for many years. DGfL aims to act as a trusted partner, so we work for the educational establishment bringing to bear DGfL’s operational scale, economy and a wealth of technical and educational expertise. Through listening to the ever changing challenges and priorities that impact the participating educational establishments, the service has evolved over time.

As part of this service evolution and having given a lot of thought to how we can contribute to the success of the educational establishments, through the provision of IT related services, the concept of the DGfL modular service was created. With effect from 2016 and to the end of the current contract in 2021, the service now comprises of a set of Core Network Infrastructure Services and a set of Optional Services that complement the Core provision. Educational establishments can choose from these Optional Services on an annual basis, and thereby tailor the DGfL service to meet their specific requirements over time.

The current services provided are constantly being reviewed and adapted as a result of technological and curriculum changes and the valued feedback received from all DGfL stakeholders.

The DGfL Core Service

The foundation of this support is represented by the DGfL Core Service. The aim of the Core Service is to provide the educational establishment with a best value, best of breed and subsidised set of essential services, representing all that is needed to operate a reliable and secure network. The service includes: 

Broadband
The DGfL Broadband provision is both managed and monitored to ensure schools have the right capacity of uncontested fibre broadband. The lines are protected by powerful firewalls and robust intrusion prevention systems such that broadband is secure and fit for educational use. A high capacity, dual redundancy link into the internet ensures reliable and fast broadband provision at the best possible cost, that educational establishments can trust as the foundation of their ICT strategy.

Proactive Network Monitoring and Maintenance
These are the important, often invisible but essential proactive support and maintenance checks that DGfL carries out in real time, on every network, to ensure the ongoing stability and resilience of a school’s ICT systems. Thousands of automated checks can detect issues with systems, enabling a resolution before they impact the networks. Combined, they form an effective and efficient protective service layer and include, but are not limited to: security checks, server log monitoring, antivirus scan checks and updates, operating system and application updates, backup checks and capacity management.

Core Systems Software
Included as an integral part of the core service is a range of necessary software without which an educational establishment cannot ensure the network is properly licensed and secure. This includes network operating systems, Microsoft software assurance for device and server operating systems, wireless central controller software, filtering and e-safety monitoring software, anti-virus software and updates, network management tools, LAN and WAN infrastructure management tools.

Strategic Advice and Relationship Management
Relationship management is a key part of DGfL going forward and as a result, technical and educational experts will interact with educational establishments on a regular basis to ensure that the service is appropriately aligned with the school’s strategy and requirements.

E-safety monitoring

E-safety monitoring is an essential network system element required to ensure a school’s network is being operated in line with the school’s safeguarding policies. This service monitors what is happening on the network and provides reports to act upon as appropriate.

Centralised Filtering
This is a very important part of any establishment’s network, as it allows for the filtering of web content and ensures that the control over what is accessed and if set up appropriately when, where and by whom. DGfL currently provides, manages and supports Smoothwall for all educational establishments, as an enterprise filtering solution, fully integrated with the wireless and network systems.

E-safety Support
DGfL works closely with the Dudley Safeguarding Board to ensure that national and local initiatives are promoted within DGfL establishments, via central training sessions. Through E-safety support, DGfL supports digital literacy within the new computing curriculum and training to all E-safety stakeholders, ensuring the key messages are understood and embedded into good practice in educational establishments.

Central Backup
A key building block of the DGfL service, the enterprise and industry leading cloud technology based centralised backup service provided by DGfL, ensures that all files stored on the school servers are incrementally and securely copied, on a daily basis, to a secure off-site location and have the capability to be restored, upon request, in case of accidental file deletion or major server failure. In addition, users can restore their own files through the use of the DGfL enabled shadow copy of their data.

Core System Restoration Service
Combined with the central backup service, DGfL provides a server and infrastructure restoration and business continuity service in case of a major systems failure, be that due to technical issues or other unforeseen events such as fire or flood. DGfL stocks ready to use server and infrastructure hardware that can be deployed into an establishment, to provide critical functionality via either a timely system repair / replacement or loan equipment, while the educational establishment is waiting to settle any insurance claim.

Managed Infrastructure
The DGfL core service provides advice and guidance on how to get the best out of the educational establishment’s infrastructure, while ensuring users are safe and secure. Many of the features of the core DGfL service support 1:1, BYOD strategies and facilitates a school implementation - safely and securely. With this in mind, the core service E-safety Monitoring, E-safety Support, Centralised Filtering and infrastructure systems work as an integrated whole.

DGfL Service Desk
The DGfL Service Desk is a local, Dudley based facility staffed by a team of IT professionals that know DGfL and the educational establishments. Support and advice requests can be logged during working hours or by using the on-line support portal 24x7x365. Calls logged are often managed and resolved overnight by the off-shore team. The DGfL Service Desk is supported by second and third line technical staff, where technical issues require escalation.

The DGfL Optional Services

The optional services available are designed to provide the educational establishment with a flexible service, moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach. These options give schools the choice to model the services that are needed, in response to specific priorities.

Example options (subject to change):

RM Unify Premium
DGfL offer RM Unify Premium, bringing together the best online applications and content relevant to the educational establishment’s needs, seamlessly accessed anytime, anywhere and from any device. The RM Unify service with Premium license provides Single Sign On or Saved Password App functionality for many key educational applications, as well as integration with Office 365 and/or Google Apps.

Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint Support

A service that provides appropriate technical and educational support for Office 365, and assistance with all provisioning, configuration and migration activities including bespoke customisations for the educational establishment.

Google Apps for Education (GAfE)
This service provides appropriate technical and educational support for Google Apps for Education, including assistance with all provisioning, configuration and migration activities and bespoke customisation for your educational establishment.

Educational Consultancy
DGfL will engage with the educational establishment strategically and in the spirit of partnership, to help identify it’s educational IT needs. From ‘big picture’ strategic development and support, through to medium and short term high impact training and CPD.  All CPD plans are tailored and flexible to meet the varied demands of the timetable. It offers a wide range of delivery that includes whole-day INSET, half-day or after-school staff training; in-class support; developing pupil ‘Digital Leaders’; curriculum planning and development; and bespoke surgery- style consultations with Educational Consultants who know our Dudley educational establishments well.

Technical Account Management
The role of the Technical Account Manager is well established within DGfL participating educational establishments and the benefit this role brings to the management and development of IT is recognised and valued. For example, Technical Account Managers will hold regular review meetings at school, advise and support school decisions when investing in IT and generally act as a member of a school when dealing with any issues relating to IT both within the DGfL and with the management of third parties.

Thin Client and Remote Access Support
A service to provide support for remote access and the use of thin client computers.

Wireless as a Service
A centrally hosted enterprise managed wireless network to support all mobile device types and usage scenarios including BYOD and guest access. The system is fully integrated with the web filtering solution ensuring use of the wireless network in the establishment is safe and secure.

MIS Integris Licensing and Support
This service provides license and support for RM Integris MIS, a cloud delivered Management Information System solution which helps educational establishments manage their data and make informed decisions with access from anywhere and at any time.

MIS Hardware and Operation System Support
A technical support service for the underlying server and operating system of a locally hosted MIS. This service is targeted at supporting the necessary infrastructure on which to run products such as SIMS, Bromcom etc.

SIMS Application Support
A stable MIS is central to the operation of an educational establishment. A team of trained SIMS Support Consultants provide expert advice and consultancy on the entire SIMS application suite, as well as advice on FMS to improve the use of data within the educational establishment. We will ensure the MIS is operating effectively, is up to date and reliable, providing stability for your SIMS System; allowing the educational establishment to operate effectively and rely on the availability of data.

MIS Consultancy
This service provides a comprehensive package of pupil assessment analysis tools, reporting to parents, advice, guidance and support to help all educational establishments, to maximize their use of the school information management system.

DGfL and Sustainability

Minimising the environmental impact of School ICT in Dudley.

It is estimated that ICT accounts for 2% of human induced global CO2 emissions.  In May 2008 a report from Ofsted warned that schools had not yet engaged with government plans for more sustainable schools. (Source: - Ofsted – “Schools and Sustainability, A Climate for Change”.)

How is the Dudley Grid for Learning contributing to the solution?

For DGfL2 ‘Refresh’ Dudley MBC selected the RM ‘Ecoquiet’ low energy model as the default replacement for up to 8,000 PC’s in Dudley schools. These use around two thirds less energy than the standard PC’s they replaced and emit less heat.

Assuming each PC will be in use for 5 hours per day for 39 school weeks it is estimated that each could save 99 kWh of electricity in a year. (Source:- RM Education plc.)

Assuming electricity costs at £0.10/kWh then 8000 such PC’s would save Dudley schools 792,000kWh and £79,200 in one year and an estimated £396,000 (at current prices) over the next 5 years.

CO2 emissions per kWh from electricity generation vary widely depending on the fuel used (Oil – 740g, Gas – 385g, Coal – 970g, (Source:- Energy Systems Research Unit, University of Strathclyde.) However in 2006 the International Energy Agency used a figure of 0.576kg CO2 per kWh when researching emissions for US homes.

If this figure of 0.576kg is applied to our annual schools saving of 792,000kWh then 456192kg of CO2 emissions is avoided.

If the PC’s have an anticipated life of 5 years there is a potential saving of over 2,280 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions.