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Astrea Academy in Sheffield (Woodside School) was housed in a Grade 2 listed building. This all-through school needed refurbishment of the historic building, and a new site to accommodate substantial expansion. Nexus associates partnered with Kier to deliver the Grade 2 listed building’s ICT refurb and solutions in the academy’s transformation for Sheffield City Council.

Logos of kier group and astrea academy sheffield, featuring a colorful geometric design for kier and a tree with stars for astrea, displayed on the facade of a grade 2 listed building, with Latin motto underneath.
Logo of Sheffield City Council featuring stylized text above a green and white graphic of a cityscape with a prominent central tower, representing a grade 2 listed building.

The Client

Sheffield City Council

The Building Contractor

Kier Construction

The Project

Astrea Academy, Sheffield (Woodside School)
Andover Street, Sheffield, S3 9BE
All-through School with 1,500 three- to nineteen-year olds

Project Type

Capital programme

The Contract

Project start date: 2017
Phase 1: Primary School handover September 2018
Phase 2: Secondary School and Sixth Form building handover September 2019
Value of ICT contract: £399k

The Nexus Team

Niall Sweeney
Tim Mason
Javid Mahdavi

Project overview: Grade 2 listed building ICT refurb & construct an additional building

Nexus Associates worked in partnership with Kier Construction to deliver Astrea Academy, Sheffield. This new, all-through school campus is home to 1,500 pupils from nursery to sixth form. The younger age groups are accommodated in the refurbished, Grade II Listed, former Pye Bank School, and those from Year 7 up in a new state-of-the-art secondary and post-16 education building.

The project was delivered in two phases.
Phase 1: Refurbish the Listed Building
Phase 2: Construct new building.

Nexus supported Kier from inception to handover, with ICT consultancy, and passive and active ICT solutions, designed and delivered to ensure both buildings could share the same internet and were linked to the same network.

Phased approach to delivery

The Primary Years building opened in September 2018, in the refurbished Grade 2 listed building that was formerly Pye Bank School, supported by a server room in the heart of the school.

Nexus supported Kier in developing the server room to ensure flexibility. This enabled the room’s transformation to a hub when the new secondary years building opened one year later and housed the all-through school’s new server room (supported by a further three new hub rooms and hub location in the sports area).

Nexus designed, supplied and installed all infrastructure across both buildings, including a new core and edge switching solution; UPS systems for all server and hub rooms; wireless infrastructure; and telephone system. Nexus was also responsible for the design and installation of all classroom AV equipment.

We foresee and solve all potential ICT problems before they happen

Change Management: we made sure a late request to change the network design cause zero delays

The original design included an HP Aruba network solution. Following design approval, the Trust requested a change to a Cisco network, to better integrate with other Trust schools. Our ICT consultant, Tim Mason, implemented our change management process to ensure the new solution design was approved and implemented without affecting the programme.

Risk management: with not fibre optic connection, we organised a different solution

The ducts for the fibre optic cables travelled underneath the road dividing the two campuses. Five weeks before handover our ICT Consultant, Tim Mason, highlighted a possible problem with the fibre optic connection which would support the phone lines to the primary years building. To mitigate the risk, Tim developed a 4G solution that could temporarily provide the needed connection. Three weeks prior to handover it was confirmed that the ducts had collapsed, so the fibre optic connection would not be in place for the handover date. Tim implemented the 4G solution and ensured the phone lines were operating from Day 1.

Working collaboratively: we brought together the council and Openreach to repair a blocked duct under a highway

A collapsed Openreach duct under the highway had ceased the connection for the telephones. As the tarmac had been laid within the past 6 months, the local council were reluctant to remove it. Tim installed a temporary 4G network to ensure a smooth handover with live telephones. He worked with Openreach and the council, carrying out surveys to identify the problem and ensuring they were rectified with no further detrimental effect to the school. This solution was in place until Openreach could agree with the council to rectify the damaged duct.

Dealing with a hitch: how we got the emergency lift connected so the school could open

With the handover of the main building imminent and the new telephone system up and running, our ICT Consultant, Tim Mason, highlighted the lack of connection to the lift’s emergency line, without which the building could not open. Through research, Tim identified a 4G landline simulator that could be used to provide the connection temporarily. Kier’s lift supplier did not offer this solution, so Nexus took responsibility for purchasing the 4G solution from an alternative supplier.

Our Project Manager, Niall Sweeney, installed the solution to resolve the immediate problem and enable the lift to be commissioned and the building handed over as originally planned. This solution proved so successful that Nexus has since used it again, to mitigate the risk on the Stowmarket High School project.

Managing the AV installation to meet programme

The approved design had included digital signage screens with power and data points positioned appropriately to support the screens. Following a routine survey of room condition, two weeks prior to ICT installation, our ICT consultant, Tim Mason, identified there were no patrices in the walls at the required positions. Tim worked collaboratively with Kier’s Site Manager and their M&E Installer, NG Bailey, to make sure the patrices were in place in time for the ICT installation without affecting the programme.

We designed a solution to give great wireless signals in every room of the school

From experience, our ICT Consultant, Tim Mason, knew that the position of a teacher’s desk from the interactive screen could cause connection issues. During the design stage, working with the FF&E consultant, Tim was made aware of the school’s required position for the screens and desks in the food technology classrooms.

Concerned that the technology would fail at such a distance, he included an HDMI sender in these classrooms, which would send the signal over the required greater distance.

Education-appropriate solutions: we sourced devices to that adapt for different classroom activities

Nexus Associates is highly experienced in delivering education-appropriate solutions. We used this knowledge to source user devices suitable for the primary-age classrooms.

For example, our ICT Consultant, Tim Mason, presented motorised screens that could be positioned at floor level for ‘carpet time’ and higher for teacher-led presentations.

Financially astute solutions for a new school that will grow to fit its building

The building for the primary-age pupils opened in September 2018.
The campus for the older pupils opening the following September, to Year 7 pupils only. The school would then grow with increased year groups as the pupils moved up the school.

Understanding the Trust’s need for a reduced number of classrooms from September 2019, our technical architect, Javid Mahdavi, included a smaller number of devices in the solution, and only for the occupied rooms.
Although all infrastructure would be in place around the school, Javid knew that to deliver best value the school would be better off introducing additional technology only when it was needed. This would reduce the likelihood of having any ‘out of warranty’ devices before they had been fully used.

Javid selected a new phone system with wireless availability for installation throughout the school. Although some areas of the school were not in use from Day 1, he knew the solution would need to work in these areas in the future, when additional kit may not be available. Purchasing all the required kit up front delivered the most cost-effective solution on this occasion.

We made sure the school stakeholders had all the kit they needed

With only part-occupation from September 2019 in the new school buildings, our technical architect, Javid Mahdavi, worked collaboratively with the trust and school to identify which rooms were to be used at handover.

Although all infrastructure was in place, our solution did not include the installation of teaching screens in all classrooms. Working with the school’s IT manager up to the installation start date, our ICT consultant, Tim Mason, gained a full understanding of which rooms were to be used. Tim documented the requirement and ‘froze’ the plans with the Trust’s approval prior to commencing installation as programmed. This made sure the correct classrooms were fully fitted with teaching screens.

Effective processes and procedures

Following a routine visit to site during the build stage, our ICT Consultant was concerned that the server rooms were not going to be complete in time for the ICT installation scheduled date. For effective installation, Tim knew that the rooms needed to be finished such that it was painted; cabinets were in place; power live and stable; lights, air-conditioning and Passive ICT installed and tested; and the room deep-cleaned and lockable. All of this would ensure an effective, and safe and secure installation.

Tim raised his concern with Kier’s site manager, who addressed the problem by bringing in additional resources to ensure the rooms were completed by the scheduled date. Tim then implemented our server room sign-off process to ensure all work was completed to the required quality, enabling the ICT installation to commence as programmed.

Early engagement to avoid later challenges

To ensure the Server Room cabinets are secure they are bayed together. For this to be effective, the data and server cabinets needed to be compatible.
With this knowledge, at design stage, our ICT consultant advised the M&E installer, NG Bailey which was installing the data cabinet and Kier which was installing the server cabinet that they should be sourced from the same supplier.

This was carried out which achieved stable, bayed cabinets and first-time approval.

Working collaboratively to deliver a future-proof design

Through early engagement our ICT consultant, Tim Mason, worked collaboratively with the M&E Installer, NG Bailey, to ensure the General Arrangement documents presented a clear design of all Small Power and Data requirements.

Tim, experienced in delivering education schemes, ensured that every possible data and power point was considered at this early stage, to reduce any likely additional and costly requirements at a future date. For example, Tim added power points at the library doors for additional exit security and at appropriate positions in corridors for CCTV cameras, which could be installed in the future with minimal disruption and cost.

Effective decant of the servers to the new campus

Once the new-build was complete, our ICT consultant planned for the decant of the Server Room in the refurbished Primary building, to the new secondary campus building, leaving a Hub in the Primary building. Tim implemented our Decant Management process in collaboration with the School’s IT Manager.
One week before the decant, Tim and our project manager, Niall Sweeney, oversaw the school’s trial shutdown and restart of the servers by their IT Manager. The reboot cycle was performed outside teaching and learning hours to reduce disruption. Once complete, we were confident that the servers could be shut down, relocated to the new room and restarted on the day of the decant.

Working collaboratively with the M&E Installer

Through effective stakeholder engagement at Design Stage, our ICT Consultant, Tim Mason, gained a full understanding of how the school wanted to use the cabinets in the server room. Tim created the cabinet layout and gained approval for these, as part of the contractor’s proposals. He then worked collaboratively with the M&E installer, during fit out, to ensure the proposals were followed – right first time.