I feel like a fraud posting here, as I don't work in education (any more)! But I need some valid opinions on this subject, so please bear with me.
A school local to me is having apparently horrendous technical and staffing problems. Support is quite patchy and staff are not able to rely on the teaching network, to the extent that they are preferring to not use it. The admin network is suffering too. Obviously this is a stupid situation and is causing all sorts of problems.
It occurred to me that if:
- the curriculum network and admin networks are separate
- someone who knows what they are doing sets things up properly
then would it be feasable to set up a small group of sixth formers as network support for the curriculum network? If overseen by a member of staff, who would also look after the admin side, would this help or hinder?
If the training/implementation was done properly the students could get something out of it too.
Am I being naive or daft? Has anyone ever tried this? Any advice?
There is another thread on here with a bit of discussion on 6th formers and students supporting the schools LAN, but I cannot emphersize that a good Network Manager is a must in any school nowadays, and remember the bits of paper ain't the beeall and end all, its ok saing your an MCSE in 2003 but if you cannot use it in practice its a waste of time! I may not have the bits of paper but I do put MCSE people to great shame and have done recently!
Welcome, I do belive you have come to the right place. It sounds like the school is having major problems, but be assured that they are not the first, nor will they be the last to have problems such as these.
I will go out on a limb here and state that the main root cause of the schools problems is either
a. Poorly trained network support staff caused by 'b'
b. Lack of funds.
My advice would be to get an experienced network manager in place (one from an educational IT management background (NOT a former head of ICT though!)) and pay them a decent wage, because you will get what you pay for, and if they pay penuts then they will loose their staff very quickly indeed.
As for using 6th formers, I would suggest that care should be excersised. Whilst they can perform minor duties such as changing toner catridges and minor desktop support, the core management such as user creation and control, network management etc should only be done by a professionsl onsite network manager or technician as many legal aspects such as the data protection act start to kick in. Also 6th former are only there for a short time and any experience they have is lost when they leave.
Sorry if this is a little short, but I don't have the time to write as much as I'd like due to reasons everyone else here knows about.
Other possible solutions are to contact other local schools that have existing systems and get advice from their network manager, maybe even share then for a period of time.
Depending on your needs you may not need a network manager full-time.
There are some schools that do this quite well, and once the use of ICT picks up in the school you can look for a more full-time solution.
Without a good network manager in to start with I wouldn't even suggest contacting the local Uni for students to be sent to the school on placement. They need someone there to feed from and learn the required skills from.
Another suggestion would be to look on the ICT Register (www.ict-register.net) to see if there are any local schools that provide a support service (I know some do in Manchester and in other areas of England). This could be a stop gap (or even a permanent solution!)
If the senior leadership in the school are reluctant to put the money behind tech support then point them at the ICT Register too ... even the hardiest of manglement speaking schools on the register will tell you that you need to invest to get the results.
Yes get a decent network manager in argument to put forward is this that school has got this network and no one one is using it then out a network manager in he then makes it reliable.
This is in turn makes teaching and learning improve and that means school view get improved both via good ofstead but also general view of the school which means more new kids and in turn means more money...
Anyway if need help producing document on getting a network manager in full-time then let us know and sure we can help you create something
If the VI formers had had prior training as opposed to being thrown in at the deep end then yes.
I'm biased as i'm a VI Form techie (or was up until about a week ago when i officially finished school now making me outside support).
Initially showing them what to do and letting them loose on a live system is ill advised. And to have a group of them to keep track of would be a nightmare.
Some well trained VI Formers can be an invaluable resource and could quite easily run 80-90% of helpdesk requests as they are usually trivial things. But as ever problems with DPA will crop up and keeping tabs on a group of teens could be more of a problm than it's worth.
The key is, if you want somethign done right, pay a professional to do it.
You want a network manager or maybe some sort of external network engineer from a company such as Class-Technology (formarly Tulip Computers UK).
As for training, the students would only benefit from the disruption it could possibly cause to their studies if they are definately going to continue to use it later in life.
My knowledge of networking and various systems helpted to reduce my uni offer by 80 points! So it has some use
Seriously, 6th formers are great for the small and repetitive tasks - we use them here as part of a curriculum assistance programme that the school runs - they had to do X number of hours a week assisting a business - and a couple chose to help us out.
However we give them no access to any of our servers, and they aren't even allowed to change passwords, setup users. They serve the purpose to take away the strain of the toner cartridge/mouse/keyboard swaps that come in every day, allowing us to concentrate on the development side of things.
At the backbone of every school IT network there should at least be a Network Manager who is there to drive the development, organise purchasing, etc etc.
[or in my case - the Network Manager says what he'd like to do and I'm expected to put it into practice. Bitter, moi?!! ]
We have two sixth form team members, it helps take the strain off us a fair bit.
They don't have rights to set up accounts, change passwords or see anything they shouldn't.
They do run network cables, change cartridges, install printers, initiate rebuilds, troubleshoot, bring machines back for repair, take the empty cardboard boxes to the bins, etc etc
They are also our eyes and ears round the school, picking up on misuse or poorly machines.
It works quite well, especially when we remember to give them full instructions like 'Take this printer over to Room 12, install it, print a test page to prove you installed it, dispose of the packaging, then come back here for your next task' They're good lads, just possibly in a world of their own most of the time...