I attended a session hosted by my LEA with Microsoft, Cisco, and Intel yesterday. It is part of a week of roadshows running all over England and is intended to brief Head Teachers about ICT provision under BSF.
Fortunately my HT decided to take me along and translate the techie bits for him. What alarmed me was the vision proposed by Partnerships for Schools (P4S), where all BSF schools would have to sign up to have their ICT services provided by Local Education Partnerships (LEPs) comprising LEAs, building contractors, and ICT Service providers.
The P4S presenter was talking about centralised procurement, with central server farms and schools no longer running their own servers or providing their own server support or network management. The presenter also talked about schools negotiating how often and when they could arrange client software deployment, implying that this would be part of a wider range of managed services provided by the LEP. No time was spent justifying the rationale behind this centralisation, apart from saying she had heard of a school which was 'down' for 2 weeks because their server failed.
It was not clear if school based ICT staff would be retained with presumably reduced responsibility, or be outsourced, or 'outplaced' ie sacked!
Has anyone else involved in BSF seen or heard of this?
I was at a show just before Christmas - a guy from BSF was there doing a talk. Schools were to receive more money in one go than they had had over the last 20 years in total! But they were to have this 'managed service' - no choice - you take the money - you take the managed service!!
Very worrying. No one here in SLT seems to have heard anything - or at least not that they have told me!
Maybe others know more? I wonder if anyone on here has 'been done' yet? The first schools have just started opening I believe.
Part of the push from the DfES within the BSF / PFI stuff was that it didn't matter who put the boxes on the desk as long as they met certain criteria (it gets a bit more complicated than that but that really is the crux).
After some concerns (IIRC these were raised by those going to academies) it was spotted that schools need support staff. Not just to take machines out of the box and plug them in, but to also be the link between the box on the desk and the users.
This does mean a slight change in role for some people but they figure ... "hey , those techie guys and gals ... they really are adaptable, we need to keep hold of them and make good use of them"
So yes, there is a general move to outsourcing in schools, but it does not mean that they don't need support staff. In fact, because the boxes are being delivered by an external group it almost becomes more necessary to have the support team there because you can bet your bottome dollar that the company putting things in will not be as nice and as helpful as we are.
In a number of seminars / conversations over the last year it has become apparent to me that there are groups out there that want support staff to develop their roles in schools so that they are needed.
You also have to remember that with BSF it is often viewed that schools are trying to start afresh and so they look at what they can get away from rather than what they need to take with them from the old place.
I'll actually see if I can get some proper quotes about all this from various people.
Thanks for that Tony. I didn't think that we would be out of a job so to speak - as you say - in our environment people have come to depend on there being a real person there to sort out issues etc.. I just worry that our role will be diminished somewhat. Time will tell...
The whole outsourcing idea does make you worry somewhat about career development and the like. I'm pretty young so need to develop my experience and the like before I can get a decent job in industry.
If services are outsourced, school technicians and network managers that previously drove innovation within the school environment will have their career path cut short as they then become little more than caretakers replacing mice, changing toner, resetting passwords and the like.
Actually Ric, quite the opposite. You will be relied on more and more to have an idea about the learning and teaching implications of particular technologies and practices.
This means that you have a more defined job structure, instead of only ever being allowed to look after the technical stuff you will now be asked your opinion and advice ... on educational matters.
From here you can go further ... there are a growing number of examples of Network Managers joining the leadership team in a school, and this is now regarded as a valid move and not questioned by people like SSAT.
If that doesn't add an additional step to the ladder I don't know what does.
I work at a school which is in the throws of BSF, the approved IT supplier has nominated and ict techies will be TUPE'd ( transfer of employment to supplier )
However the company are keen to keep existing staff for several reasons.
Relationship with staff, knowledge of software,users etc. It could be a very exciting move if you have the motivation, to tap into the training of a bigger company with opportunities to progress your career path in a slightly different direction. As existing technical staff we have had an input to drive forward the whole scope of ict and integrate systems (MIS,curriculum,FM, Security, etc). The future should be exciting, but make sure you get heard early.
The only thing that concerns me is that when it goes wrong (and some indeed will) and the IT supplier gives the school the bare minumum instead of what the school really needs.
It will be interesting, but I often wonder if many of the bidders have any idea (apart from RM) of the difference between corporate and educational IT needs.
Alas - I don't share Tony's optimistic view of this "development". I've been through a couple of outsourcing experiences, and pretty much people with serious technical know-how are seen as an expensive appendage within the receiving organisation, as any strategic technical direction is seen as being in the remit of the company running the systems. If you get TUPE'd across - you can get redeployed anywhere they like in a "similar" role. I particularly wanted to have a degree of autonomy in my working life - so I don't see being pushed into a big corporation as career progression.
I can see where Tony is coming from but I know where I am, I have a member of SLT over me that helps manage cross curricular ICT and from experience it's hard to remove responsibility from a persons position.
I've also noticed that the Scottish schools that seem to be under a similar situation to the propsed one, don't have the freedom to further the technoogy in their schools. It's all well and good having up to date systems and all the mod cons when the school is built but what happens in a couple of years when nobody likes interactive whiteboards and the service providers are getting p-ed off with installing educational software?
The only immediate advantage, if offered to all, is the possibility of commercial training and (I would hope) a raise in salary to put you inline with others in that organisation.
Personally, I likeworking in a school because of the varied workload - where else could you maintain AD, Exchange, backups, ISA, SANs, virtual machines, hardware maintenance and much more? Plus you are your own boss most of the time!
I would love it to be like GrumbleDook says but I can either see us being phased out or being turned into box openers, package signers and glorified first line support. How many schools will be able to survive without the "Ohh I need this next period" and although it isn't encourage there really are times it has a genuine reason for happening.
Other things like a network problem, if we aren't allowed to have access to servers how can we do anything but report it. A class then has to try and do the best it can with out any assurance it will be fixed soon, plus we will be getting the flak.
Also brings a raft of other issues such as if your link goes down the whole school is stuffed for computing, rather than just external stuff (unless I'm being confused by the server farm idea)
My thinking is why not just use the money for all that to sort out IT pay and kit for ALL schools! Probably be less hassle.
I had interesting talk at bett with a company that does bsf (in queue for clockroom) anyway he was saying the fault in some ways is at lea level as they as suppliers come up with agreement and lea negoitate and then agree to terms. but often they dont really look into what they are agreeing..
He cited a story of lea that in terms of contract every hour of work onsite by tech would cost this much this contracted involled lot talk between lawyers etc.
Anyway they had a problem and it would take 3 days so they got charged this much x amount lea said no we are not paying that...
so he view was why did you agree to it then....
so if your lea is going to be part of bsf project excpet it is going to happen (as it will be for now) and take proactive steps first contact lea, presure them into making sure that heads get to see propsoed contract and then got to your head and say you want to see it... make lea take your views into account... as some one eolse said be heard and be heard early...
I used to work for a large multinational corporation that sold hardware, software, delivered services and consultancy as well as ran multi-billion dollar outsourcing contracts. As a technical consultant at times I worked with the outsourcing business helping develop outsourcing bids and helping deliver support after the contracts were signed. The ideal client for an outsourcing company is one who hasn't a clue how his business works, what his people do, or what his true costs are. That way the client signs up for a cheap deal, then the client finds out that half the stuff they need is not part of the contract and surprise surprise the client gets stuffed when the contract is renegotiated! I know of a local school (not my LEA) that was a PFI build where the staff cannot afford to use interactive whiteboards after last lesson of the day for staff training because they get charged extra by their PFI 'host'.
Now I am not saying that the people who are running BSF, the LEAs or even your typical school SMT fall into the 'ideal' category described earlier but..........
I retired from that company 3 years ago and am happy in my job as a school network manager. Quite honestly, I don't fancy being part of this brave new world of BSF, I have seen the impact on people of TUPE. The outsourcing company may take on some people, but once you have been TUPE'd your job security is zero & your terms and conditions of employment are worthless. Companies take on outsourcing contracts to make money, profit for shareholders. They make profits by reducing costs, and staffing costs are the biggest element, and the first to be cut.
StewartKnight asks why don't they consider outsourcing admin staff etc. I believe the BSF 'model' which includes PFI allows the outsourcing of ALL so called 'soft services' ie non-teaching roles. I guess the reason admin is out of the frame is because it is not sufficiently profitable for an outsourcing company to consider. I have yet to see a business case within BSF which supports the idea of outsourcing ICT. I suspect it is being driven by ICT suppliers who know there is less and less profit in shifting tin these days, services is where the money is.
This outsourcing threat does not only affect the school based staff, it will have an impact on any centralised LEA ICT support organisations too. My school has a support contract with our LEA for Admin systems, 2nd level server support and some networking infrastructure. I cannot see this surviving. They also support the primaries, I wonder what would happen to them if the LEA ICT service is privatised?
If you are not in a union, join. Talk to your Headteacher, colleagues at other schools, in other LEAs.