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We completed the ICT design and delivery for an NCC leisure centre alongside a decant an adjacent all-through school. We balanced the needs of the leisure centre and the schools with shared and separate ICT infrastructure as appropriate.

Logo of Ponteland Leisure Centre on a blue background with a white heart graphic.
Logo of Northumberland County Council, prominently featuring ICT services for schools, with a stylized yellow and red flag above the name in black serif font.

The Client

Northumberland County Council

Main Project Components

Internet connectivity
Audio Visual systems
Desktop computers

The Project

Ponteland Leisure Centre & Ponteland School
Ponteland, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne NE20 9EG

Project Type

ICT decant

The Contract

Start: August 2018
Handover: October 2020
ICT project value: £698k

The Nexus Team

Javid Mahdavi
Tim Mason
Simon Barclay

Project overview: Design and deliver a leisure centre and all-through school

We designed, delivered and decanted of all ICT and audio-visual (AV) equipment for a new, purpose-built environment.

This consisted of:

  • An NCC Leisure Centre
  • Connected primary school & secondary school

Nexus worked alongside the Building Contractor and Northumberland County Council (NCC), as part of an integrated team, to deliver a new All-through School. Through the initial engagement with the client and 3 separate stakeholder teams, we worked to refine and specify an ICT solution that provided flexibility to support 3 very different sets of end users, while securing the requirements for the overall building and NCC’s corporate networks.

A leisure centre for the community

Ponteland Leisure Centre is managed by Active Northumberland, a registered charity, on behalf of Northumberland County Council.

Active Northumberland manages all leisure facilities on behalf of Northumberland County Council, including fitness centres, community sites and beach facilities. They also provide a sports development service to deliver activity sessions to children and young people, and to support local sports clubs and community groups.

Northumberland County Council placed the leisure centre alongside Ponteland Primary and Ponteland Secondary schools to encourage and foster better health in the community’s young people.

“Active Northumberland is committed to helping people make healthy lifestyle choices, offering expertise and experience. We support the development of all physical activity across the county. Our leisure facilities encourage a physical lifestyle and our GP referral scheme is nationally recognised.”

Ponteland Leisure Centre

Balancing the needs of a leisure centre and school on a complex site

We delivered to challenging timescales

With the scheduled time for the ICT installation reduced to just a one-week half term break, our Technical Architect, Simon Barclay, worked closely with our Project Manager, Tim Mason, to reschedule our programme around the building contractor and conduct early works, where achievable.

Tim led our Installation Team to complete all first fix early, including AV looms, AV screens, switches and wireless infrastructure, which ensured we had the required time to complete the deployment of the new desktop computers, and decant of the legacy ICT equipment from the two former schools during the October week. With the installation complete and the Network Manager overwhelmed with the finish of the rooms, we handed over the project on-time and defect-free.

The NCC Leisure centre

Although the solution was to be installed as one, the individual establishments needed to work independently, in particular the Leisure Centre, which was to be managed by NCC (who had ultimate control for managing the access to the areas of shared use by the public and the individual schools).

Balancing the leisure centre’s needs against those of the schools

To understand the needs of each group, Simon led ICT Client Engagement Meetings with the key stakeholders: Primary School, High School and NCC’s ICT Services Team. With a full understanding of their needs and how to balance them, Simon designed a single-campus, wireless solution that supported the individual schools, along with the public facing connectivity required by the Leisure Centre.

The campus-wide switching and wireless solution allowed for integration into NCC’s authority-wide systems and controls, as well as supporting teaching and learning in each school. The proposed solution was presented for approval through proof-of-concept testing of the Leisure Centre guest wireless on the legacy network in the former High School, prior to set-up in the new building.

The shared services and infrastructure avoided the need for duplicate systems, improved performance and provided efficiency. This approach allowed for standardisation across the campus, to leverage buying-power and deliver value for money, and reduced the risk of competing technologies from co-existing systems.

The challenges of COVID lockdown restrictions

The project began in August 2018 with an original handover date of August 2020. With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the subsequent national lockdowns, the completion date was pushed back to October, which only allowed for a one-week ICT decant. Due to the unique layout of the building and a construction programme planned around completing the rooms before the main thoroughfares, we were challenged with little time to complete the installation, as well as a ‘clean’ environment to work in. Simon therefore secured additional resources, rescheduled our programme to work around the construction programme and led the Installation Team to ensure completion by the end of Half Term.

Having worked closely with NCC and both schools to understand their current systems and any challenges that needed to be addressed, we were able to understand the curriculum approach for the schools and the corporate requirements for the Leisure Centre, ensuring the system selection and designs supported the individual stakeholders.

We supported the wide-ranging stakeholder group in helping them to understand, one-size did not fit all and would have been inappropriate for the education arena, but it was key that a ‘campus’ platform was delivered to allow for of the shared services (CCTV/Access Control) function. The final campus-wide solution, with tailored elements, benefited the staff, students and the ICT Technical Teams alike.

At Design Stage, with the solution design approved, a change was requested to incorporate a high-end media and signage solution throughout the Leisure Centre, bar and café. This required an enhanced switching design and specification, to accommodate the bespoke video streaming requirements. At this stage Simon, working with our Delivery Engineer, designed and adapted the switching architecture with new VLANs and bespoke configuration, to support the additional system requirements with no impact to project timelines or cost.

Our ICT innovation

With a requirement for over 200 desktops, including monitors and stands, Simon recommended a unique, Dell PC, custom-built to order. Drawing on his established relationship with Dell, Simon designed the desktops to suit the schools’ needs, and negotiated a high specification at a competitive price and within the original budget.

Because of the design and specification of the devices, complimented by the high-performance infrastructure, the imaging of the devices was incredibly quick – over ten times faster than previously. The Network Manager, Stuart Tweedy, was overwhelmed with the speed and consequent reduction in his future workload.

“Nexus worked closely with us to install our new ICT network, it was deployed professionally and we saw immediate improvements in performance and the system has been extremely dependable for our staff and students.
Nexus involved me throughout the installation, and the decant into our new building. All aspects, from the networking and wireless to the computers themselves were all installed in a meticulous way, giving us an ICT system to be proud of.”

Stuart TweedyIT Network Manager, Ponteland School and Leisure Centre