Frederick Bird is a larger than average primary school which serves the diverse inner city community of Coventry, UK. Of the 720 pupils currently on roll, a large proportion of pupils come from different cultural backgrounds, so that there is a rich cultural diversity within the school. Frederick Bird school was opened in 1905, extended in 1918, demolished and rebuilt in the mid 1980’s and extended in 2014. To accommodate the newly built extension to the school, the phone system needed to be extended. The old phone system was expensive to maintain with specialist callout charges to make any changes to the system, e.g. move an extension. The running costs of the old system were high with multiple ISDN line rentals and ISDN call charges. Upgrading the old phone system was not cost effective. The school needed a new system that was not only more cost effective, but also easier to administer and deploy. To accommodate the newly built extension, the Frederick Bird School needed to modernize the phone system
After extensive research by Danny O’Grady of Coventry City Council and Micheal Cross, IT Manager of Frederick Bird Primary School, the Digium Switchvox system was selected as providing the best value given its rich functionality. With the help of Daconi Ltd, a Coventry based Digium-certified partner that implemented the Switchvox system, the school elected to have a separate broadband feed for the new Switchvox system and an independent SIP provider. This permitted increasing the number of incoming lines from 3 to 5 with the option of further simple expansion if required later. The school chose Digium IP phones, which were easily deployed via the existing CAT5 infrastructure. Three D70’s were deployed for the front-office staff as a ring-all pool to spread the incoming call load, and D40’s were deployed for the rest of the school. “Having the ability to join the front-office pool (as an agent) simply by pressing one button”, said Tara Taylor, Business Manager, “was particularly useful, especially during school holidays when front office staff are on leave. ”The schools Ruckus WiFi network was also extended by Daconi and integrated with the Switchvox system. “One of the best things about the system for me is its ability to converge phones”, said Mike Cross, IT Manager, “as I’m always moving around the school. It helps to be able to make and receive calls via my extension on my smart phone.” Digium's free Softphone app for mobile phones has the same capabilities as their desk top IP phones.
Following the rollout of the new system and initial training of front office staff by Daconi, new features have slowly been introduced. The positive results were numerous and the features and benefits of the new system have already been enjoyed, including:
- staff can receive email attachments when they have a new voicemail
- incoming faxes to the school are automatically emailed to the admin staff
- staff can customise their own address books on the handsets
- staff can use the conference feature to invite others to the conversations
- software installed on the staff PC’s allows dialling from the desktop
- calls made remotely appear as though they are coming from the staff’s school extension so personal phone numbers remain hidden
- mobile staff including the site services officer can receive and make extension calls from their smart phone
Changes to the phone system, such as adding new users and moving phones from one location to another, now take minutes versus days or weeks. Plus, the changes can be handled in-house without having the high maintenance costs of paying a vendor to do the work.
Frederick Bird School has been able to reduce operating costs by replacing three ISDN2 rentals with one broadband rental, retaining the PSTN line for the broadband, fax and as a voice backup. Office space was also saved by using Switchvox to terminate fax calls instead of dedicated fax equipment. Savings on call charges were also made by using an independent SIP provider.
Extending use of the free Softphone apps for iPhone and Android phones to other key staff. Making use of Switchvox’s messaging capabilities to enhance classroom communication is also being considered.