Computer system at Durham Johnston School scrapped

A COMPUTER system installed by a private firm as part of the multi-million rebuilding of Durham Johnston School rebuild has been scrapped after just 18 months.

The ICT system supplied to the school, which was rebuilt under Durham County Council’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme at a cost of £23.8m, has been dogged by problems from the start, it has emerged.

Now council chiefs have ditched the system for an alternative, said to be “much more basic”. With the alternative not yet ready, school leaders have been forced to resurrect their old setup.

Coun Nigel Martin, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrats and a school governor, said the private contractor had failed at every step and condemned what he called the council’s failure to deliver leading edge systems as promised. The school had got a poorer service at a higher cost, he claimed.

“While I am relieved that the school at last has something that appears to be working, I am appalled to think how much money must have been spent to end up with something no better than that which the school had developed for itself several years ago,” Coun Martin said.

He also claimed the shift to an alternative system would delay other BSF projects, including Easington Community Science College.

David Theobald, BSF project director for the council, said problems had been encountered at Durham Johnston but the authority had done its best to ensure they were tackled quickly and effectively.

The new system, which went live in July, had not lived up to expectations but the alternative was “in no way inferior”, he said.

The shift would not delay the Easington BSF project and would not cost the council extra money, he added.

“We are confident that it will result in a high quality ICT service for students and staff that matches the fantastic new schools they will be occupying,” Mr Theobald said.

The council declined to name the company involved.

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