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Courses and Training Thread, Defining our profession in Training and Courses; Overall, I can't agree I'm afraid, Andie. You're right, of course, in that we should all remember what a school ...
  1. #31

    Ephelyon's Avatar
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    Overall, I can't agree I'm afraid, Andie.

    You're right, of course, in that we should all remember what a school exists to do, teachers and non-teachers (*washes mouth out*) alike. However, I invite you to consider this analogy.

    Schools, businesses, hospitals, charities, governments and militaries are all organisations (I don't consider the terms 'organisation' and 'business' to be synonymous). Let's say we have an organisation that, for the sake of argument, is a business. Say it makes furniture (like a cut-down version of DFS, perhaps). That's its primary purpose and what it's there to do. There's no point in it being there if it's not doing that. Also, for the sake of simplicity, let's say it has one factory with one production line (naturally it would be more complicated than that, but this is just a simplification of the process). If the factory workers aren't making the furniture, the business is producing nothing and serving no-one so it may as well shut down. But let's assume that we're not at the point of saying the company is folding. The production of furniture comes under the category of 'service delivery'.

    As an organisation (any kind of organisation), it has to keep itself running in order to have that factory, that production line and those workers there at all. A number of important functions and processes go into this: leadership, administration, public relations, personnel, finance, IT, etc. (IT is part of these because it is a core resources that nigh-on everybody has to go through to get anything done these days). There are also a number of additional functions that facilitate the service delivery, such as sales and marketing to raise public awareness of the existence of the company's products/services (otherwise the company would have no customers, or in a school's case, no pupils/parents) - this is slightly different from PR in general because it's more specific.

    So let's imagine that you have a nice young lady - Sonya - who works in HR for the company. She might be, say, a team leader (i.e. 'lower-middle' management within that department). Now... you go and try to tell Sonya that all she's there to do is support the factory workers in making the furniture, and she'll tell you where to go, because that's not the be-all-and-end-all of her job at all. She and her department function 'at the level of the organisation', in that they provide a service that enables an organisation composed of human beings to function together collectively as a cohesive whole. They provide their service across the entirety of the organisation, intertwined with all other organisational processes. This is because all the departments contain employees - people - so they will all encounter, and make use of, HR's services at some point. The people carrying out the service delivery element are just one group of these. Next (and this goes out to all those schools whose NMs are still under the Head of ICT), you try telling Sonya that she's to be line-managed by the factory foreman, and she'll quit. In short order. Because it doesn't work like that.

    Her work and the factory foreman's work are entirely unrelated. Yes, he and his department are one of her clients - a principal client in fact - but that's all. When things are run properly, service delivery is not at the heart of the organisation. There is no 'heart', no single unwavering focus at the expense of all others, that said others all merely serve. All departments are recognised and treated equally in their contribution to the company's success.

    End of analogy.

    The same principle applies to IT: no modern organisation of any considerable size (and schools are, generally fitting quite neatly within the industry bracket of 'medium business', at least if it's a secondary school) can function without it, and it permeates absolutely everything. Even the caretakers and the kitchen staff have computers at my school (and yes, they do use them in their work). Even subjects like Art and PE make fairly heavy use of IT resources in many schools. Administration (including a good proportion of clerical duties) is practically paralysed if the whole network goes down, as is finance. Personnel, too, stores employee records and salary adjustments, etc., on SIMS or something else IT-related, or it links in (over the Internet) to a centrally-managed system at the LA's end.

    The problem this thread was meant to address is one of perception. When dealing with perceptions, terminology and use of language are important. Teachers are used to having assistants in various roles to support their work directly, known variously as 'teaching assistants' or 'technicians' (for certain subjects requiring additional technical support or expertise). You get Art technicians, Science technicians, D&T technicians and so forth. As I said in my OP, there was a time when a school's IT facilities were primarily used as a learning resource; the technical staff were thereby quite fairly classed as supporting teaching. Teachers are used to the idea that when we speak of 'support', be it 'support staff', 'supporting teachers' or whatever else, what this essentially means is people who are subsidiary to teachers, whose roles exist merely to assist in service delivery - i.e. just one element of the organisation. Within the context of education, I feel that that's what the word 'support' is generally taken to mean. We really mustn't blame them for this - that's still the case for many kinds of support staff, and in fairness that was also how it used to be with IT.

    However... this has changed!

    The change has been gradual, as schools slowly, over many years, came to rely on their IT services more completely ( la businesses, and frankly everyone else out there by now), so it's not really been noticed. It is up to us to inform and feed back to senior school leaders and senior government decision-makers, including related sector bodies (i.e. BCS) and training companies (e.g. QA) the nature of these changes, as we are likely to be the only group that will perceive them directly over the course of time.

    Nowadays, the IT resources permeate much further into the core of the school's processes - into pretty much all of them, in fact, including those entirely unrelated to delivering T&L. The ones that continue for that entire quarter of the year when there is no T&L going on. This change has occurred largely over the course of the latter half of the roughly 15 years that IT has been around in schools in its modern (or at least semi-modern) form.

    I feel it might be useful to compare ourselves with school Business Managers at this stage: they also function 'at the level of the organisation', providing the core service of finance plus, varyingly, a number of other very high-level organisational management functions that are absolutely essential to keeping the school as an organisation running (which must be the case before we can even speak of T&L). They are also generally classed as Senior Management, which, in fairness, I can see they would need to be more than we would. But either way, their position was created, recognised and appropriately paid (generally on par with various similar-ish roles in industry) because a group of people, or perhaps many disparate groups, realised the need for them and the value of them. We have seen, then, that it's possible to influence the education sector in this way, as it's happened before with the rise of the Business Manager. Now is the time for the rise of the Network Manager, and their technical staff.

    So in summary, Andie, I think you're right in that supporting teachers and pupils is a very important part of our role and it should never be forgotten or put down. Equally, however (and this is the problem), it is only part of our role. Also, as you say, it's easier to swallow the pill if you're working in a place that does value and respect you, and tells you so (I can relate, as mine does too). Unfortunately, however, too many of our colleagues are not in this position, and I feel it is precisely because our role is seen as merely supporting others that we don't get the recognition that, as a branch of our profession, we do deserve.

    The pool of talent and dedication on this forum is immense. We ought to at least be able to make some headway if we really try. This is also why I wanted to hear from @Dos_Box, as he already knows what it is to achieve change, in indirectly bringing us all together.

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    wagnerk's Avatar
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    There is a broader issue here: The fact the the IT Profession is a non-united non-profession profession.

    Professions are typically regulated by statute, with the responsibilities of enforcement delegated to respective professional bodies, whose function is to define, promote, oversee, support and regulate the affairs of its members. These bodies are responsible for the licensure of professionals, and may additionally set examinations of competence and enforce adherence to an ethical code of practice.
    However IT is not regulated, there is no entry requirements, no requirements for continuing CPD, no requirement for IT Pro's to be a member of a professional body, etc...

    I did a poll on another forums and less than 60% thought that it would be a good idea to have some sort of mandatory qualification or certification for the IT Professional, on another thread about 50% of IT Professionals either see no value in joining a professional IT association or are against professional IT Associations.

    How can "we" (IT Professionals) expect other professions to take us seriously when (basing on other threads and polls) we don't stand united? Don't get me wrong, there's great stuff out there, eg SFIA & SFIAPlus, as well as different methodologies: FITS, MOF, ITIL, Prince2, etc... Then there's the CITP (from the BCS), ICTTech (from the ECUK), LCGI (from C&G's). But all of these are again voluntary, either down to the individual organisation or individual to gain/implement.

    I'm not against the professionalism of IT; however unless we push up the professionalism of IT as well as the assistance of the Government (a push from top down), it going to be a very long ride for our profession...

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  4. #33
    Gibson335's Avatar
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    If I never hear the phrase 'We are here for teaching and learning' again it will still be too soon. This is the catchall, get-out-of-jail-free phrase that is meant to act as our Kryptonite. Yes, we know. Yes, we're aware of the reasons why we are here. But 'teaching and learning' isn't everything in our game, because behind the shiny tools at the front of the class is the machine that keeps it going. The ICT Support team is part of that machine, without which schools simply couldn't keep going - whether that team is provided in-house or via outsourced service management. We are not a small cog, if anything we're the spokes, reaching out across the wheel. When it comes to the techs, many of them bring their own inferiority complex through the door. I insist it should not be this way, and try to drum it into them that they are a major part of what enables the school to function. That we, too, are professionals. Does an 'us and them' culture still exist? Yes, at least it does in the two schools I've worked for. But there has been a great deal of change over the years. In secondary education, at least, we have moved away from the notion that an ITaware and willing teacher can successfully run a network, but that's because networks have become bigger and more complex and more wide reaching. Teaching staff are coming around to understanding that we are not (all) a bunch of people who didn't have anything better to do and so somehow ended up slipping into IT and then slipping into education. I think we may still be a way off being fully appreciated for the work we do, and for the influence we have, but then perhaps many of us may not fully appreciate a teacher's contribution beyond the walls of their classroom. As for being a member of the 'support' staff, well the word suggests subservience more than is intended I feel, and it certainly doesn't bother me. I work on the basis of treating people how I am treated by them. So the snotty ones get my professional service, whilst for the nicer ones I'll go the extra yard as need arises. When it comes to 'us and them' I just keep in mind that which one we are depends on who is telling the story.

  5. #34

    TechMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andie View Post
    I understand your frustration - schools can be frustrating places to work, but I personally don't mind being seen as support staff. Even when I lead on something, by offering procurement suggestions or learning something new to train others, that is still a role that supports the teaching. And I don't see why teachers should feel threatened by someone genuinely trying to help. But I suppose every school environment is different, and I am lucky enough to work somewhere that my contribution to the whole seems to be appreciated, even if they sometimes forget to involve me in relevant stuff from time to time.
    IT is 90% a support role, unless the business is selling or creating it. The difference I would say is not that the 'School' don't seem to feel support is two way. We are there to run around after them, learn things to show them, give them the info they need but the time and resources needed aren't supplied in return & the CPD isn't always forth coming. There is still that edge that we are people at a loose end that come in to help out the school.

    That is what gets my goat.

  6. #35
    Andie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ephelyon View Post
    Next (and this goes out to all those schools whose NMs are still under the Head of ICT), you try telling Sonya that she's to be line-managed by the factory foreman, and she'll quit. In short order. Because it doesn't work like that..
    Ah, that'll be where the primary school gets it wrong then. The techie being managed by the headteacher or the IT Co ordinator. I should get myself transferred to new management!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ephelyon View Post
    The pool of talent and dedication on this forum is immense. We ought to at least be able to make some headway if we really try. This is also why I wanted to hear from @Dos_Box, as he already knows what it is to achieve change, in indirectly bringing us all together.
    In short, Edugeek should become a professional body.... To be honest, I'd rather pay Edugeek a professional subscription than anyone else. I can already see the benefit of membership! Even if I am now feeling even more despondent about the value of my job...

    And I looked on the BCS website. Went round in circles trying hard to find out specifically what I needed to have achieved to meet the membership requirements of the various grades. For example, what degrees count? I must be ineligibly thick, because I can't find it. Even requested the "Information Pack" which was supposed to explain it, which turned out to be a pretty pdf stating everything I'd already "found" on the website. The interactive tool for deciding what grade of membership you could apply for simply asked if you have 5 or more years of experience. Well, I've been here 9 years part time. So does that count as 4.5 years in total? I don't want the humiliation of submitting a cv and being rejected because I don't have the correct paper qualifications. Sorry, BCS, but I can see why you might struggle for members.

  7. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andie View Post
    ...And I looked on the BCS website. Went round in circles trying hard to find out specifically what I needed to have achieved to meet the membership requirements of the various grades. For example, what degrees count? I must be ineligibly thick, because I can't find it. Even requested the "Information Pack" which was supposed to explain it, which turned out to be a pretty pdf stating everything I'd already "found" on the website. The interactive tool for deciding what grade of membership you could apply for simply asked if you have 5 or more years of experience. Well, I've been here 9 years part time. So does that count as 4.5 years in total? I don't want the humiliation of submitting a cv and being rejected because I don't have the correct paper qualifications. Sorry, BCS, but I can see why you might struggle for members.
    Have you tried the "What can I apply for" tool on the BCS website? Did you know a BCS member (either one that holds the MBCS or CITP) who can verify your work/experience? As you can fast track them with their support. You only list your experience in the above post, not your qualifications, so I can't assist you more. However the BCS does have a enquires line that are helpful. Besides, I wouldn't worry about being rejected as they will offer the membership category that you meet the criteria of, if you do apply... There are a variety of different levels:

    Ordinary Grades
    Student Membership
    Associate (AMBCS)

    Professional Grades
    Professional Member (MBCS)
    Fellow (FBCS)

    Other
    Affiliate

    I'm a bit partial to the BCS, as I've been a member with them for years now - even gained the CITP within 4 years of it being launched. However there is also the IET, another organisation that I'm interested in, as they offer the ICTTech professional registration. The IET also offers a fast track scheme for holders of MS certifications, see here.

    Microsoft to IET membership mapping
    microsoft-mapping.JPG

    Microsoft to professional registration assistance (holding the professional certification does not automatically gain you professional registration status)
    microsoft-mapping2.JPG

    The differences of the IET compared to the BCS is that:

    1. The IET does not offer the CITP, but do offer the IEng adn CEng - the BCS offer all 3.
    2. The IET fees are higher than the BCS
    3. The IET offer the ICTTech professional registration, the BCS doesn't
    4. The IET is not IT/Computing specific, the BCS is.
    Last edited by wagnerk; 31st May 2012 at 05:58 AM.

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  9. #37

    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andie View Post
    In short, Edugeek should become a professional body.... To be honest, I'd rather pay Edugeek a professional subscription than anyone else. I can already see the benefit of membership! Even if I am now feeling even more despondent about the value of my job...
    We already have BCS and IET as professional bodies ... and Trevor is interested in trying to have a dedicated one for support staff in education via The FITS foundation ... and at least that one is linked in with, and verified by, an established qualification, in the same way that IET and BCS have frameworks for competency standards too. Knowing some of the pain Trevor is going through trying to work with different people to get the body setup I would honestly say that it is far easier to throw your lot in with someone else than to try to set it up yourself ... and I doubt EG have the time, money, resources to try to do this. If you have look ate previous conversations about EG being a union then you will find the comments from me and @russdev about the difficulties there ... the same applies here. There is also the case of why re-invent the wheel ... better to just get the right wheel for the right vehicle.

    My gripe with BCS has been that *we* have to do *all* the legwork on translating professional competency to what they offer. At least with The FITS foundation I know that is already done. Chatting with a few members there have been serious issues around Single Status being mis-used to downgrade jobs (I wouldn't go as far as saying abused ... but some people have said it feels that way). The ability of SLT in schools, HR at LAs and Hay Review panels to assess requirements for technical and managerial competency has been questionable in many areas and I am aware of one LA who has taken the view *FOR THEIR CORPORATE IT SUPPORT* that by working to tie JDs into the SFIAplus framework then they will have the evidence to support the correct JDs instead of them being downgraded on review. If MS and IBM can do it then so can schools.

    Personally, and I too am biased, I think the best route is to throw our lot in with BCS, at least until Trevor has more luck with a specific body. The fight will be to see how they *could* get IT professionals in education recognised as such by a) the IT sector in general, b) the education sector in general, c) specific targets in schools (i.e. Head teachers) and d) Government agencies / departments. There is also the question about what compromises we would have to make as a result ... would we go down the inspection / audit route? Professional accreditation *as well as * trade qualifications (then can be linked together)?

    If people are interested in BCS and talking with them then myself and a few members have spoken with them already. There are knowledgable and fantastic members already on here (including @Drummer_Boy, @mberry and many more). There are IET members on here too ...

  10. #38
    Andie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    We already have BCS and IET as professional bodies ... and Trevor is interested in trying to have a dedicated one for support staff in education via The FITS foundation ... and at least that one is linked in with, and verified by, an established qualification, in the same way that IET and BCS have frameworks for competency standards too. Knowing some of the pain Trevor is going through trying to work with different people to get the body setup I would honestly say that it is far easier to throw your lot in with someone else than to try to set it up yourself ... and I doubt EG have the time, money, resources to try to do this. If you have look ate previous conversations about EG being a union then you will find the comments from me and @russdev about the difficulties there ... the same applies here. There is also the case of why re-invent the wheel ... better to just get the right wheel for the right vehicle.
    Apologies... I didn't mean to be taken seriously on the Edugeek professional body front. It would be wonderful, but as you pointed out, not possible. And I appreciate all the suggestions of help about BCS membership. It just annoys me that they can't be up front about their requirements, as other bodies are. I'm very isolated in terms of other IT professionals who could vouch for my experience, as I suspect other primary school techies may be.

    I have also thought about this issue of the diversity of the profession a lot since this thread started, and I feel it is even true within educational IT. In this LA, I feel very much that a lot of secondary school IT technicians look down on us primary techies, and that doesn't help. We are often doing way more than we probably should be, without proper training, but often managing to hold things together very well. There were only six people on the FITS course I did, and I was the only primary techie. The people running the course said it was rare for primary techies to come on their course. That's why I would welcome a standard minimum set of qualifications.

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  12. #39

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    @Andie
    FITS does run across primary and secondary but it usually more suited (personal opinion) to those employed in secondary or as part of managed services for secondary schools. Primary schools do need more work and support with it, but that is sometimes off-set with a slightly lower expectation of the demands of IT ... or rather it used to be. The old Primary FITS materials were really good for helping staff in primary schools understand how to make the most of limited access to IT support and planning ... but the operational management of IT support was missing from it ... but they can be taken from the present FITS materials to a greater extent.

    As for IT Support in secondary schools looking down on primary schools ... yep, that happens a fair bit, but mainly from a lack of understanding and the breadth of what is needed in both schools. Some of the most exciting and innovative use of IT I have seen has been in primary schools and some of the most innovative configurations are also in primary schools too ... but that sometimes comes down to the ability of staff supporting the primary schools having to be more inventive and the technical competency is based on the ability to think up new fixes and solutions, but in secondary schools there tends to be more of a draw to 'industry' style delivery of facilities ... though there is some that do both anyway. Some of our most respected members on here are mainly in the primary sector and they are often the first to find solutions that work.

    When looking at competencies for primary techs I tend to look at technical problem solving skills, communication skills and time management, whereas in secondary I tend to look at technical design skills, operational management and service management. One skill set is not better than another, and the needs of the schools will vary and overlap a heck of a lot.

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    We have seen, then, that it's possible to influence the education sector in this way, as it's happened before with the rise of the Business Manager
    well. school teaching leadership can somewhat get their heads around the job of the business manager. Dealing with finance issues, contractors who do stuff that involves making a racket, and so on. a lot of principals will have some experience of. Whereas the job of the network manager is this black box to many. These days conjuring up innocent enough questions about why this stuff that the NM dabbles in can't be moved to the amorphous cloud.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alttab View Post
    These days conjuring up innocent enough questions about why this stuff that the NM dabbles in can't be moved to the amorphous cloud.
    "we have a contract with Cthulhu. In retrun for our first born children, he allows IT support to call upon his/her/it's power to fix problems. As we're nerds, it works out OK... It's not like we were going to have children anyway."

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    I think GD's right; there's a mix of talents required across the primary and secondary skillsets and my original proposal was every bit intended for primary techies as for secondary techies.

    Looking back though, I probably didn't make that very clear as my more recent experience is entirely in the secondary sector (only done contract techie work in primaries before and that was getting on for a decade ago now). With that in mind then, Andie, can you tell us any more about specific problems for primary techies that I missed?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post


    When looking at competencies for primary techs I tend to look at technical problem solving skills, communication skills and time management, whereas in secondary I tend to look at technical design skills, operational management and service management. One skill set is not better than another, and the needs of the schools will vary and overlap a heck of a lot.
    I suppose my question then has to be who has or is supposed to have the technical design skills, operational management and service management skills set in a primary school? Because surely, if the techie doesn't, then someone in the school has to in relation to IT provision? For a good few years we didn't even have an IT Provider, as they went bust. I can't remember exactly what the management structure was proposed for a primary school in the original primary FITS documentation, but somewhere along the line there was a headteacher, an IT Co-ordinator and an IT provider sharing out management of the network infrastructure, with the techie doing the techie stuff below. Maybe that happens in some primary schools in some LAs???

    Whereas elsewhere...:

    Quote Originally Posted by X-13 View Post

    I pretty much do a NM job, but I'm paid IT Tech wages and I'm on 15 hours a week.

    Because there's no money.
    And no seriously relevant affordable training, and no space to work....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andie View Post
    And no seriously relevant affordable training, and no space to work....
    TBH, from my experience our profession can be summed up with 2 words.


    General. Dogsbody.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andie View Post
    I suppose my question then has to be who has or is supposed to have the technical design skills, operational management and service management skills set in a primary school? Because surely, if the techie doesn't, then someone in the school has to in relation to IT provision? For a good few years we didn't even have an IT Provider, as they went bust. I can't remember exactly what the management structure was proposed for a primary school in the original primary FITS documentation, but somewhere along the line there was a headteacher, an IT Co-ordinator and an IT provider sharing out management of the network infrastructure, with the techie doing the techie stuff below. Maybe that happens in some primary schools in some LAs???

    Whereas elsewhere...:



    And no seriously relevant affordable training, and no space to work....
    i think it's slightly complicated by the fact that many primaries don't have a full-time IT tech on the payroll. They could buy in a day a week from the LA schools service, from an IT provider [individual or group] who serve a cluster of schools,

    even those schools who have a full-time tech/NM can just as easily be reliant on an external provider for anything more substantive than day-to-day troubleshooting. And that's where the complication is...service provider might be working to a set of professional standards but they have no control over how the NM/tech on the school payroll undertakes his or her duties.

    So a wifi install, an infrastructure design refresh, they're at the mercy of whichever external supplier they choose being able to deliver a right-sized solution at value for money. Many of them are much more reliant on the LA than secondaries, so they may pay a premium but safe in the knowledge the LA [in theory] isn't going to leave them in the lurch.

    there may be guidance, but there's no onus on schools to follow anything to do with FITs or any other set of professional guidelines, this has only been exacerbated i guess by their not being a government body to oversee this, and with more and more schools moving to become academies and even more scope to go their own way. But yet still be seeking out the LA to take a lead, as that's all they know and have experience of.

    There are massive opportunities for people who know their stuff to deliver an ICT service to schools and lead a primary school or cluster of schools on issues to do with ICT provision. Those folk with that type of experience who work towards a set of professional standards is a good thing, because if nothing else it could be the minimum a head or bursar at a primary need to remember when it comes time to go out and seek someone to provide IT support or deliver a one-off project or when they as an academy school advertise themselves.

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