conehead (9th February 2009)
There's nothing sinister about it. It was just a screw up and it made sense for the company to get out while they could.
conehead (9th February 2009)
All BSF contracts have a time limit, many are for 5 years, others for 10 years. If you reach the end of the contract and the service is poor, you don't renew.
Also, in most commercial outsourcing contracts, the client can cancel, albeit with penalties. I would imagine BSF contracts are (or should be) the same. Partnership for Schools have insisted that BSF contracts also have financial penalties included for failure to deliver the service at the agreed level.
Finally, in many LAs, their BSF schools are being done in batches, not all in the same wave. If a contractor fails to deliver during one wave of schools, the LA may choose to place other contracts elsewhere.
In practice, all of this sounds easier than it is; abandoning a BSF managed service will be painful whenever it is done and the service providers know this. That is why many IT solutions will aim to centralise servers & services, as it makes them a whole lot more painful and expensive for the client schools to withdraw from by moving assets & skills away from the schools.
I'd like to see any BSF provider giving this level of service
(i'm not saying we always meet this level of service, but it's always a useful bargaining tool)
(oh ... remember that SLAs should be realistic and reflect what you deliver ... otherwise the MSPs can do the exact same and you don't have a leg to stand on!)
Now ... come on ... I want a back up policy and example regimes.
SLAs are agreements about levels of service that are to be delivered. They are negotiated by representatives of service delivery and the client. SLAs are not aspirational goals to be met on occasions when circumstances permit or purely by chance.
SLAs under BSF will result in the service provider being financially penalised for failure to deliver. They will have teeth, and the service level provider will do their best to keep them vague & woolly (as pointed out earlier by torledo) while the client should be pushing them as far as they will go. If schools do not engage in the BSF process early enough, the LA will probably decide what the SLAs will be, based upon what they think the schools need.....
Look around you... how many of our schools have SLAs between the LA, ISP, or any other organisation delivering a service to the school?
Are they really negotiated agreements, or are they in fact merely service delivery statements issued by the service provider to make the client feel cosy?
Is there anyone in your school qualified to negotiate SLAs that are worth the paper they are written on?
If you have an SLA, what happens if the service level fails to meet the target levels set in the SLA?
A more likely prospect is that the loss of the service contract would result in some staff facing redundancy, courtesy of the TUPE ETO get out of jail card held by the MSP.
But again, penalties which would be defined in the original contract. A contract negotiated by LA Tesco Suit lawyers and BSF Saville Row Suit Lawyers. There will be only one winner.Also, in most commercial outsourcing contracts, the client can cancel, albeit with penalties.
My issue here isn't BSF. I actually think BSF, if done correctly, would be a great thing but I have no faith in LAs, PFI contracts or big companies to do it correctly. That's why I like freedom of choice. Yes, I'll buy a computer from you but if it's crap I'll buy the next one from somewhere else. Just like if I was hiring a technician, if (s)he was crap, I'd sack them and hire another one. I wouldn't put myself in a position where I was stuck with a supplier / technician. I don't do it with my electricity, gas, car insurance or mortgage so I'd hope that people wouldn't do it with my children's school.
If they serve crap coffee and the contract says they have to serve good coffee then there are penalties.
This is where lawyers earn their money and it is in the interest of the LA that *their* lawyers work hard at it. Remember that LAs are free to bring in more lawyers in and they also understand that procurement specific teams are a must. Early BSF waves have shown the importance of this.
The other thing about the contract ... yes, there are chances to drop it at set times (fail to renew) but this takes time. During the contract there will be continuous service reviews and this is where the SLAs and school representation comes in. If the contract is not going to be extended at teh 5 year point then I would expect at the 3 year point the LA and schools will start discussing options, followed by a year of sorting things out and then 6-9 months of transition to whatever is replacing it.
Part of the secret of a good contract is to have a good stick to beat the provider with, and deciding not to use it, but to discuss things in a grown up manner. The MSP are also going to want things to be flexible (but in their favour) but a contract that says "we have the choice to tell you to go away in year 5" says exactly that ...
Also remember that an annual sort of program doesn't work. You have little chance for planing for sustainability as each supplier coming in gets the chance to blame the outgoing one and also cost you more money.
And there is the final thing. The MSP gets vetted, has SLAs to work against and a contract with standards, policies etc ... this will get audited, have lots of people pushing to see whether it is doing the job and we come back to the word 'accountable' again.
What is there that says you have the same standards? Who watches the Watchmen? (or clips the ear of the naff neighbourhood watch in some cases!)
Your views have been aired many times here on Edugeek and I along with many others share your concerns.
Unfortunately those of us who are further down the BSF road than many have come to realise that there is only one game in town, and that is BSF. As school based ICT staff, we only have two choices; work within the BSF framework, or get out altogether by seeking employment elsewhere.
Schools need the investment; most of it will be delivered via PFI, and a managed ICT service is part of the bundle that is BSF. School management and governors (many of whom are local councillors) cannot afford to turn down the investment in their schools over a point of principle such as ICT being managed or not.
I was a Chair of Governors at a secondary school that was part of wave 1. My fellow governors and the school SMT discussed at length the possibility of remaining independent as far as ICT was concerned, but is came down to the fact that we did not feel we could defend a decision to turn down £1m+ investment in school ICT just to retain control. This debate is being played out all over England. As far as I am aware, only one school in the whole of England has decided to reject managed services as part of BSF.
And that school has lost out on the money that goes with it at this time. (At this point the money has been shared by the other schools instead but I had heard the school was getting something out of it, but have had confirmed that if they are it is not from the LA, P4S or other such funds!)
Previously one school had put forward an alternative proposal which eventually was rejected, but there will be others that put alternatives forward.
I really want to see the first school that makes it through, and if the school that has dropped out had gone all the way I really do think they would have made it.
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