About Cambridgeshire Local Authority
Cambridgeshire Local Authority provides education and skills training within the county of Cambridgeshire, supporting 2,400 teachers who teach over 77,000 children in 250 schools.
Their client architecture and web content provision has to enable access and control at an individual level to students, teachers and support staff.
Like other authorities in the region, Cambridgeshire has a high concentration of market towns and a number of rural schools and colleges. Communication infrastructure can be poor so finding a method of delivering reliable and consistent broadband for education is of paramount importance.
Cambridgeshire works in conjunction with the East of England Broadband Network (E2BN), one of 10 Regional Broadband Consortia (RBCs) set up by the Government to help raise standards in teaching and learning with the use of broadband technology.
The challenge of rural internet access for education
Cambridgeshire LA manages a number of “Village Colleges” – local facilities which function as both schools and adult education centres. Originally introduced to Cambridgeshire in the ‘30s in the village of Sawston, they were designed to provide schooling for students between 11 and 15 years of age as well as acting as a community centre for adult education, recreation and social life. Today a network of 23 colleges, predominantly based in or near small villages, services a largely rural local population. Most act as schools and adult-learning centres and face high student demand.
To ensure its students were protected online the LA had traditionally allowed its centres to use different vendors to proved web content filtering. However, this made the task of supporting a variety of solutions impossible from the centre.
The pressure and cost of providing broadband internet access and managing disparate filtering systems led Cambridgeshire LA to look for a solution that helped manage what they had without resorting to a costly upgrade of infrastructure.
Filtering for education
Cambridgeshire had already adopted the Protex content filtering service for their network core. So to aid web access and deliver filtering across the county ApplianSys proposed installing CACHEBOXes in each college.
With many students in the colleges accessing the same site or web resource during classroom sessions, content requested by one student is cached by CACHEBOX and quickly made available to other students. The pre-caching feature on CACHEBOX enables teachers to instruct the device to pre-load content from selected public or commercial content provider web sites before lessons begin.
Protex, a CACHEBOX add-on, filters content at the local level, the education authority level and the regional level, providing a comprehensive WAN solution. It uses intelligent
algorithms to assess the overall ‘theme’ of the page by using weighted key phrases. So it will not block a page just because it has a few restricted words in the text if it regards
the page as acceptable. Acceptability is determined by BECTA approved profiles which ensure the correct balance of filtering and access for both junior and adult students.
After a three college pilot scheme Cambridgeshire’s internal measurements showed a saving of one third of their bandwidth using the CACHEBOX200. Based on this the Local Authority purchased a further 27 CACHEBOX200s, which were installed in the remaining colleges, leaving some units spare for service backup and for the network core. They also purchased 167 CACHEBOX050s for schools in the region and a CACHEBOXCMC to help manage their fleet of appliances remotely.
Owing to the intuitive design of CACHEBOX, Cambridgeshire Education Authority IT staff were able to undertake the installation programme after a half day training session from
Cambridgeshire reduce costs and increase control
The key benefit of the new solution has been a saving of one third of bandwidth across the county whilst allowing the connectivity infrastructure to remain unchanged. For the endusers this has meant a significant increase in satisfaction with the service.
Furthermore, as a managed service, Protex helps alleviate the burden on Cambridgeshire’s ICT managers by no longer having to support a mix of filtering tools. It also allows teachers to make local changes in the classroom to manage what their students can access.
During both the pilot and countywide implementation ApplianSys have been on hand to ensure a smooth rollout. As Leonard Veenendaal, Technical Services Manager for the Education ICT Service at Cambridgeshire LA comments “ApplianSys have always been helpful and professional when we needed them. ApplianSys as a whole are approachable, reliable and a valuable supplier.”