Even here you will read many diverse opinions, some based on cost, some based on preference. In my view, cost should not be the predominant factor, but perhaps that's easier for me to say than others whose budgets are being squeezed. I've said before, I think getting the right solution is worth a premium if necessary, but obviously it has to be somewhat competitive. It can be a tough call - especially now that we're getting down to the nitty-gritty and suppliers are just about cutting their own throats to get the business. There is no one answer that fits all, unfortunately.
Just to follow up on @synaesthesia and his comment about the LA stepping away I think it might be helpful to repeat Northamptonshire's position.
Schools, and it appears the DfE, want us to step away and we have ... as much as we can. The downside is that in spite of trying to share information as much as possible we know that it does not always get to the relevant staff in schools and so try to use any other communication tool we can, including communication via edugeek, twitter and other places, but we try to ensure we keep within the council's communication protocols which are there for a reason (including for responses to FOI requests) and this may, at times, result in direct communication with staff at a school instead of via public forum. This aspect has been discussed with the owners of EduGeek and will be picked up in healthy discussions elsewhere rather than on this thread.
Northamptonshire County Council operates on the ethos of helping you to help yourself. For our schools this has meant that since the funds for connectivity and services go directly to schools we will help them make choices, but not make the choices for them. This means that we have not run any central procurement to buy on behalf of schools, but instead have actively worked with the other LAs as part of embc to form emPSN, and to ensure that this framework is suitable for schools. If we mention embc and emPSN a lot it is due to a) the fact that we are members and have to be to allow for maintained schools to draw down from the framework; b) it is the only procurement we have been involved in and as such is the only one we can say is suitable or can give significant information on; and c) it is, in our evaluated opinion and judgement, a suitable solution for schools (depending on what schools choose, how they choose to have it implemented, etc)
However, we know it is not our position to make decisions for schools and as such we have worked long and hard with the Schools Broadband Working Group to put together a toolkit to help schools make the decision about what they need and how to check that suppliers can give this to them. This does not, however, run to arranging meetings with suppliers who are not on the emPSN framework as this strays far too much into the realms of the LA getting involved in a procurement ... and we have already done this via emPSN. Any suppliers attending meetings of NetworkNorthants (the local community for IT Support staff and IT Support providers) is done at the request of schools who are members and not at the instruction of the LA.
Other than this, trying to regular share what information we have and attending meetings with clusters of schools to help by being as independent as we can as observers (the sales pitch from some suppliers does seem to be slightly different when we are present), but we acknowledge and promote schools making their own evaluated choices.
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