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Accrington Academy is a publicly funded secondary school, providing education for 1,150 students aged 11-18 years. The Academy is located in Accrington, Lancashire in the United Kingdom, about an hour northeast of Liverpool, and is home to a diverse population of around 35,000. In 2008, the United Learning Trust began sponsoring the school, along with a number of others, at which time Accrington Academy opened featuring Sports and Mathematics specialisms as well as themes in ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and Business and Enterprise.
The Business Challenge
Accrington Academy is situated in a building that was originally constructed in the 1920's. When the United Learning Trust began sponsorship, the building was expanded to accommodate a larger student body and was updated. Today, the school resides on a site that is a mix between the 1920's architecture and a newly built structure. The previous 15-camera analog video surveillance system was no longer adequate after expansion of the building was complete. Moreover, the analog solution had only provided coverage of external areas and main thoroughfares.
Recent legislation has placed a large focus on student safety in schools that requires administrators to know the whereabouts of their students at all times. Staff must be able track each student's exit off the property, and also monitor to ensure that all who enter the property are supposed to be on campus. This poses a significant challenge to the institution, as keeping eyes on all corners of the facility is labour-intensive, and to achieve this without technological intervention would require an inordinate and expensive amount of staffing.
Additionally, between the hours of 6pm and 9pm, Accrington Academy allows other organisations to use their sporting and teaching facilities. Only a few staff members are onsite during these events, and surveillance is important to ensure safety and care of the property. Currently the frequency of these events is low, but the business model is changing to accommodate a significant increase in these extra-curricular, after-hour activities. External facilities and flood lights are being installed for evening events, and additional surveillance capabilities will be required to manage these new areas.
Upon receipt of funds from the United Learning Trust, Accrington Academy was able to look towards the design and installation of a comprehensive video surveillance system in the school.
Their objectives were to address these issues, and to more broadly help protect staff, valuable equipment housed on campus for the Academy's ICT theme, and above all, students.
In searching for a new security solution, Accrington needed to provide complete and undisrupted coverage of all areas of the school in order to best comply with the new student safety legislation. The new system would need to be configured to work around the odd angles and spaces still present from the 1920's structure, and also extend into the classrooms to provide the necessary coverage as well as assist in resolution of misbehaviour.
Accrington Academy wanted a state-of-the-art platform to keep ahead of the technology curve, and decided to seek a future-proof IP system that would provide scalability and the flexibility to update, change or add cameras easily when necessary. Accrington Academy was also constrained by a limited budget, so it was vital that the new platform provide the greatest value relative to price.
Accrington Academy reviewed bids from three companies via three different integrators, stressing the need for open architecture, quality images, comprehensive coverage and expandability. In order to conclusively determine the best solution for Accrington's needs, Will Ames, Director of Business and Operations at Accrington Academy, had a small test build created for each of the three candidates.
The Perfect Solution
"Our decision was easy to make because, of the three tests we ran, the best quality was delivered by Genetec's Omnicast video surveillance system," said Mr. Ames. GRANTfen Fire and Security, a Genetec Certified Integrator, had submitted the Omnicast bid after being referred to Accrington. When Omnicast was chosen, Stephen Harrison, IT and Project Manager at GRANTfen, was enlisted to assist in the design and installation of the new, state-of-the-art Omnicast system.
The school now boasts 151 megapixel cameras, recorded via two archivers. Video coverage is provided for each classroom, all main circulation points and nine external areas. A Dell Workstation with two monitors provides viewing stations, and Web access has been set up to allow teachers to monitor from their desks as well. Remote viewing is also enabled for senior members of staff, and there is a potential for mobile monitoring via smart phones in order for staff members to keep track of school security while on vacation. The remote monitoring feature is a large improvement over the last system, and allows staff greater flexibility to do their job effectively while on the go.
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