Case study

Newcastle-under-Lyme School:

New system gets A*


Newcastle-under-Lyme School is an independent day school in Staffordshire, comprising a nursery, preparatory department, senior school and sixth form. With 86 teachers and 200 staff it takes boys and girls aged 3 to 18. One of the best performing schools in Staffordshire for GCSE results, it’s also one of England’s top achieving schools in terms of A-level grades.

As well as its solid academic reputation, the school also prides itself on offering high service levels to parents. However, a 14-year-old telephone system was showing its age, causing problems for people wanting to make contact. “The old system had run out of capacity and was starting to become unreliable. For example, we often lost service when it rained due to outdated voice wiring,” explains Jon Longdon, Bursar at Newcastle-under-Lyme School.


It was time to look for a replacement. “BT proposed Avaya IP Office,” says Jon Longdon. “I also spoke with fellow bursars at our annual conference, many of whom gave a good account of the product, so it seemed the ideal way forward.” Two other potential suppliers proposed the Avaya solution, too, but the BT competitive quote won the day.

BT offers Avaya IP Office for organisations with up to 300 employees. Combining the reliability of a traditional phone system with the advantages and functionality of IP telephony, it’s ideal for an organisation looking to improve customer service and call handling while reducing cost. It supports everything from basic telephony to the most sophisticated unified communications and collaboration applications.

As well as the central call processing server, the BT solution comprises 70 Avaya 1600 Series IP Deskphones and 18 traditional analogue phones to serve low usage areas such as the swimming pool. The school also placed its calls and lines business with BT, and is using BT ISDN 30 to connect 20 exchange lines to the Avaya IP Office system. As well as a single point of contact should anything go wrong, the attraction of such a one-stop-shop is the ability to benefit from the BT One Plan unlimited calls package.

One of the major attractions of using Avaya IP Office was that it would cost effectively use the school’s existing structured data cabling, meaning that issues experienced with the old voice wiring would be a thing of the past. However, it made sense for the school to upgrade the technology at the core of the data network to ensure it would be able to prioritise and carry the extra voice-over-IP traffic. The school’s IT policy is to use HP technology in its infrastructure, so BT Engage IT was asked to design a suitable architecture to a defined budget. Thirteen HP Procurve 5406 and 2520 Series Switches were provided to create the new data network core.


In its use of Avaya IP Office, Newcastle-under-Lyme School is taking advantage of features including voicemail, conferencing, and call redirection. In addition, the school doesn’t need a receptionist, preferring to offer direct-dialling-in numbers so that a caller can contact the person they need right away. “I’ve been very impressed with the reliability and flexibility of the system,” says Jon Longdon. “Being able to add new extensions quickly and easily and having the ability to send voicemail recordings by email is really useful.”

Other features have made an impact too. For example, the conference facility allows school governors’ meetings to still take place when members are unable to join in person. “People can dial in and join meetings, with clear lines and no drop outs,” says Jon Longdon. “It’s a simple and convenient way of running important meetings when members can’t physically attend.”

The story doesn’t stop there. With the school’s mobile telephony contract also due for renewal it decided to transfer the contract for its 23 mobile phones to BT. That allows the mobile phones to be twinned with Avaya IP Office extensions – so both ring at once and either can pick up the call – which particularly suits the life of the school and the many extra-curricular activities it offers.

That powerful example of fixed mobile convergence means staff can cost effectively keep in touch and take advantage of communication system functions such as voicemail wherever they are. Meanwhile parents can contact them whenever they need to, within the bounds of the school’s policy on communication and contact.

“We’ve been so impressed with the service and support provided by BT and its people,” concludes Jon Longdon, “that it led to the natural choice of BT for our internet access service.” Offering superfast 100Mbps connectivity to access rich content and educational applications, BT Internet Connect UK will have a profound effect on the day-to-day life of the school. That’s in terms, for example, of access to homework in progress, submitting completed homework, staff access to systems and databases, and the ongoing issues of pupil access to social networks.

Core Services

  • BT One Enterprise Avaya IP Office award-winning  communication system
  • BT One ISDN 30 business exchange lines
  • BT Mobile services
  • BT Internet  Connect UK
  • BT One Plan calls package
  • HP Procurve 5406 and 2520 Series Switches supplied by BT Engage IT

1 Frost & Sullivan European Enterprise Product of the Year 2011 and TMCnet 2011 Unified Communications Product of the Year.


Case study