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General Chat Thread, 'Free' Schools and IT - Discussion in General; I've just had an interesting conversation with someone enquiring whether we, at EduGeek, knew anything about the provision of IT ...
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    'Free' Schools and IT - Discussion

    I've just had an interesting conversation with someone enquiring whether we, at EduGeek, knew anything about the provision of IT and its support within the 'free' schools now appearing in England. If you have been living under a rock in the UK for the past couple of years, free schools were an election pledge by the new government which would allow communities and organisations to setup their own independently run schools, funded by the govt, that are outside of the national curriculum and can employ anyone they like to teach. These schools could be set up by remote communities, local corporate sponsors and faith/belief groups amongst others. As of yet, the anticipated number of these schools has only reached 79 and I suspect many will be watching with interest to see how they fare.
    Apart from some basic research about a year back I had drawn a blank as to finding out anything (including how to apply to set one up!) at all about them and left it at that. Anyway, I had a rather pleasant chat with my caller and noted down a few points that were raised which I think that you, our members would both like to know about and possibly provide some answers for. So, in no particular order here are some points that, if you can, we'd like to have some answers for.


    1. Who provides the IT for free schools? Not only the equipment but the support? Bearing in mind that these schools are free from the national curriculum would they be required to have any at all apart for admin use?
    2. If it were a faith/belief school, would they only employ people of the same faith/belief for not only teaching, but IT support as well (if anyone can answer for current faith schools as well it would be handy)?
    3. If a school was to be set up on the basis of a faith/belief and was to introduce web filtering at what point would it cross the divide between filtering and censorship i.e. blocking materiel that provided an opposing view to the schools faith/belief even if that material was proven to be correct, and if you were employed in such a role, how would you view that?


    I know that there are a lot of hypothetical points here, but if your are, or have been involved with setting up and supporting IT in free schools we'd like to hear your views, especially on point one. If any of you have any comments or thoughts please feel free to add them.

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    1) I have been at a job interview for a free school, and the way they were funded was that the government/ council had chosen a preferred bidder for IT hardware and a set budget was given to them. With regards to IT support they were employing someone in house to do the support, so I guess they can really do whatever they want in that respect. I have seen other jobs at free schools advertised as well, normal jobs that you would see at any school.

    2) It is illegal to only employ people of a certain faith I believe, but obviously they can easily chose someone of that faith over you were you to apply for a job. Catholic schools for example can't only employ Catholics (or that is my understanding) and most of them have non-Catholics working there. They can expect you to take part in religious ceremonies though, which might make some people uncomfortable.

    3) I have no idea.

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    Dos_Box (5th September 2012)

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    I know that at the free school that opened at the same time as us all the IT was provided by a 3rd party IT company (ala BSF). Most free schools are up and running in a year or two, so I suspect we'll see most outsourcing their IT provision. The schools just don't have the manpower to do anything else to be perfectly honest - as a new build academy it was around 7-8 years from conception to our first intake of students. A free school has much much shorter timescales to work with once they get their funding agreement from the DfE.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Achandler View Post
    1) I have been at a job interview for a free school, and the way they were funded was that the government/ council had chosen a preferred bidder for IT hardware and a set budget was given to them. With regards to IT support they were employing someone in house to do the support, so I guess they can really do whatever they want in that respect. I have seen other jobs at free schools advertised as well, normal jobs that you would see at any school.

    2) It is illegal to only employ people of a certain faith I believe, but obviously they can easily chose someone of that faith over you were you to apply for a job. Catholic schools for example can't only employ Catholics (or that is my understanding) and most of them have non-Catholics working there. They can expect you to take part in religious ceremonies though, which might make some people uncomfortable.

    3) I have no idea.
    So someone else decides who is to provide the IT? Do you know if this was a local decision or would it be the policy for other regions as?
    Last edited by Dos_Box; 5th September 2012 at 02:26 PM.

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    2 - I have been employed in a Catholic & shared faith school and it was not expected (but it was preferred) to be a catholic, but it was expected that you would support the schools ethos.

    3 - filtering was done at an LEA level and I was not comfortable in making decisions relating to what websites are blocked in relation to religion. I actually requested that the school create a process which they decided what would be blocked and how it would be done when I had a request from someone to block a website which was created by a cult (can't remember the website now) and had very differing views to what was being taught in school. The content was actually not suitable for school children but it raised the same point you have asked. I left before anything was done so I don't know what decision was made in relation to filtering/censorship but I believe that it kept the same filtering as other schools in the area.
    Last edited by penfold; 5th September 2012 at 02:34 PM.

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    There's a bit of info on IT in this Edugeek job listing:

    IT Network Manager - Sandymoor School. Runcorn, Cheshire

    For Q2, same as above. However, I've never been directly asked at the various faith schools I've worked at - its been more of a question put to prospective teachers.
    Last edited by Gibbo; 5th September 2012 at 02:42 PM.

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    At the time of the interview the preferred bidder for the IT had already been selected and apparently they had already decided what IT equipment they were going to provide, this was going to be signed off after the appointment of the post and the person appointed was expected to scrutinize the bid etc before signing it off.

    From the information I got on the day, the preferred bidder had been selected by the government, so probably a civil servant in the Department of Eduction (or whatever it is actually called nowadays),

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
    Who provides the IT for free schools? Not only the equipment but the support? Bearing in mind that these schools are free from the national curriculum would they be required to have any at all apart for admin use?
    The Michaela Free School was, at one point, planned to be opened in Tooting, and I looked at applying for a job there as network manager. I got the impression they would be structured in a similar way to the private schools I've worked in - a network manager working in the school handling the day-to-day operational IT, with probably a managed IT company / prefered supplier providing the network infrastructure, servers, workstations and so on.

    If it were a faith/belief school, would they only employ people of the same faith/belief for not only teaching, but IT support as well (if anyone can answer for current faith schools as well it would be handy)?
    The Catholic / Church of England schools I've worked at ask that you respect the ethos of the school, but you certainly didn't have to be a practising Christian to be employed there.

    If a school was to be set up on the basis of a faith/belief and was to introduce web filtering at what point would it cross the divide between filtering and censorship i.e. blocking materiel that provided an opposing view to the schools faith/belief even if that material was proven to be correct, and if you were employed in such a role, how would you view that?
    Certainly in the schools I've worked in, I'd figure it's the teaching staff's decision, so it's fair enough. I know we grumble about teaching staff who all seem to want things done in their particular way, but when it comes to the curriculum they do know best. I'm inclined to think that if a teacher wanted a legitimate resource available for curriculum reasons then most management teamns would allow the resource - teachers in this country are backed by strong unions who are willing to argue for their members. The situation might well be different in America, where I imagine faith schools can be a little different. I find that children tend to make up their own minds about stuff no matter what adults tell them anyway, and blocking certain websites is just going to make them more keen to get around the blocks and/or view them at home.

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