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General Chat Thread, A Point Of View: "School Networks – No Longer Just A Man In A Cupboard…" in General; Originally Posted by Dos_Box I feel that there is a lot of gagging going on from providers to their tuped ...
  1. #16

    broc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dos_Box View Post
    I feel that there is a lot of gagging going on from providers to their tuped staff.
    There is an element of self-preservation too. A lot of information about BSF is specific to individual LAs & schools and if made public could be traced back to source causing individuals problems. Maybe this is why people feel the need to hold back even before TUPE?

  2. #17

    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    I don't see how govt. can realistically address the underfunding issues. I also question the will to really tackle the spend misallocation problems that exist.

    But what is the hook for business to invest in IT in schools, and is that not what we're getting to a degree with the academy and BSF models anyway ? IT companies providing a professional service and a model that helps the gumment out with the medium-term funding implications

    Or are you thinking more along the lines of businesses sponsoring the requisite IT upgrades. Can you realistically replicate such business involvement up and down the country without big contract hooks ?
    OR without significant state subsidy atleast.

    Ultimately i think it is preferable for the govt. to provide the budgets and funds for IT, but this issue of private sector involvement and professional services or tailored services seems to come up and pointed to as a preferable solution for govt. and other interests to address concerns about schools IT.
    I don't pretend to have any answers, I'm just asking the questions. I do think that right now the subject of funding in schools in gerneral, and for our purposes ICT specifically, is very topical and worthy of some more serious debate.

    Of course it's now budget time again and we are all spending what little is left of last years coffers before it gets taken away and being told what little we have to work with over the next year.

    BSF is only part of the discussion. Let's face it nobody really knows the future of BSF beyond the 6th May.

    Speeking of the 6th of May, it's an election year. Maybe this is something we should all be thinking about when we place our 'X's in May. Would a life of spending cuts and privitisation under the Torys be any better (or worse) than BSF under Labour? Is there another choice?

    Then there is the resession and nation debt. This means all governements, what ever their political stripes, need to think carefully where they put their money. Spending cuts is one side of that coin. I doubt in this climate we could expect any spending increasing over the term of the next government even if there is no cut to education funding.

    I suppose that brings me on to Harnessing Technology Grant. I believe that this financial year is the last year of this grant. Whats the likelyhood of it being continued or something similar replacing it? If this is it then what effect will that have on IT funding at your school? Will your head increase provision in the schools budget for IT, taking from somewhere else, or do you loose £15-£20k (or whatever it is) from your budget?

    I agree in an ideal world full funding would come from central government but I just don't see how that is possible in the current climate, or likely with the expected Tory win. For my part I think perhaps I was thinking of business sponsorship as some kind of solution. What hooks are needed to make that work - honestly I don't know.

    One thing I do know is that Bossman's £250k figure for secondary school IT probably isn't far off for most of us. In an ideal world £150-£200k would probably cover a good rolling budget plan here. In reality about £100k is the annual min and £75k inc. harnessing technology is what I'm currently getting.

    Thankfully I have a head who a) see the importance of my work, b) knows he's got to budget against harnessing technology and c) knows he's probably got to find away of increasing IT spend from around £75k to around £90-£100k over the next few years. My only quesion is - where is he getting that money from?
    Last edited by tmcd35; 27th February 2010 at 10:22 PM.

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    Wow - never expected this much feedback. I'm glad I'm not totally off the pulse on this.

    The problem with the rolling development on ~£100k a year is that you become reliant on that happening every single year. In the case of my last school the school hadn't kept that commitment up and found itself after 7 years needing a whole new set of servers, large chunks of infrastructure and several other key systems which totalled a lot more than £100k.

    The attitude for a lot of the time was "does it still work? How long will it still work? How much will it cost to replace?" - if the answer to the first two isn't no, and not long, then you'd hit a brick wall of "sorry, no money".

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    broc's Avatar
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    With BSF, schools with a managed ICT service have to commit contractually to paying the MSP £100k+ per year(typically £120+ per student per year) for the duration of their contract (5 years or more). They also have to commit even more money up front each year if they want kit replacing during the contract term.

    Therefore it is conceivable that in the future BSF schools facing budget cuts may be forced to make both teaching and support staff redundant to be able to afford to pay their ICT bills. At the moment they just stop spending on ICT if they cannot afford it..... which would you prefer if it were your children attending a BSF school?
    Last edited by broc; 27th February 2010 at 10:35 PM.

  5. #20

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    With a five year rolling program properly implemented with a ten year server specific target there is no reason why it cannot be managed properly for less than half of the BSF costs of a basic SLA and given a much better service.

    Getting the infrastructure right first time is the key as it doesn't matter what you put at the users end it will not work well within the educational system as the demands that are placed on each piece of kit is 10 to 100 times more than in industry.

    In the normal workplace an end user would probably have the use of 2 to 3 applications, 5 or 6 at max, in education it is not unusual to have between 200 2 500 different applications which the teaching staff and admin staff expect to work well all of the time.

    This amount of demand puts an awful lot of strain on both the network and the IT support team and this is where the professional skill is at the cutting edge of education. Some schools have very forward thinking Head Teachers and Governors who believe that the school is no longer just that, it is in fact a business and it is run on a very tight budget and so the professional person who runs the IT is in fact an integral part of the business and as such should be nurtured as the whole system is central to a good run school which is in the business of educating our youth.

    As I see it we are slowly being run out of town in the name of progress but in actual fact it is the thin edge of the wedge of government cutbacks and it will not stop there.

    thanks for listening

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  7. #21

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    Consider this from the management view though.

    They have x amount of money and need to be careful where they spend it ... and most of the talk about monies tend to be from a secondary viewpoint ... just try looking at it from the point of a small rural primary with about 80 pupils.

    When management are looking to invest money in IT they need to understand the return. It might be a tick on a piece of paper (1:4 computers to pupils now reached, etc) or it might be to practical reasons (IWBs are a tool which will help the school change how the pupils learn and is part of a plan to rebuild the entire curriculum). Often we will say "because it needs it" or "because those are the standards" ... and we had the problem of the Becta IT Infrastructure docs being mis-used. The 2 docs ... the functional and technical specifications ... they were there to help with base-line standards for schools ... but the tech spec got used as a shopping list without any reference to the functional spec. What is the point in saying you have to have a managed wireless network when you have flood filled the classrooms with network points? Technology for technology's sake is no use ... yes, you get those that say technology should not drive the curriculum and those that say that the curriculum cannot be allowed to force the wrong technology to be put in place. It is a balance in my experience. New technology can be influence and instigate development in T&L, but it should not force unrequired change without darned good reasons.

    Yes, there are hobbyists out there or those who have not had enough chance to train / develop over the years ... and when I hear that a teacher has been forced to use a particular solution even when they have shown using something else will be better for the kids ... and it is purely because the IT staff don't want to implement it because they don't understand it ... then it annoys me. If management want to invest then the requirements of the end user is what the principle deciding factor needs to be. You will get under-investment in schools if management cannot see the educational benefit. It is hard to do RoI in schools ... but not impossible.

  8. #22

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    @bossman
    You know my feeling about the fantastic work you do ... but you are like a lot of the technologically adept teachers I know and chat with (searches for edtech, edtechroundup and teachmeet will give you lots of contacts) ... you are at the top of your game and not everyone is up there. Sometimes it is down to how the school looks at things, sometimes it is down to power and control in the school, sometimes it is down to the expertise of IT Staff, teachers or management ... and you do set some high standards for folk to aim for.

    However, I position myself now to try and help schools get to that stage. It will take a few years for some of them, and I find distrust from IT staff a problem. It is strange that at times the external support providers in the area are more eager to talk about standards in recording faults, documentation, sharing ideas than the in-house folk are. I would say that a lot of the regulars are in the next tier down with clear goals about how to reach your position but may be held back due to the points I mentioned above ... and trying to break down those barriers is hard.

    It might be worth some open discussions about how people have broken down those barriers. Was is due to improved communication? A change in heart by management? A slow job of working with staff and being supportive? When did you turn on the smiles or the frowns when working with staff?

    So many questions to ask really.

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  10. #23
    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by broc View Post
    At the moment they just stop spending on ICT if they cannot afford it..... which would you prefer if it were your children attending a BSF school?
    IS that a trick question ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Speeking of the 6th of May, it's an election year. Maybe this is something we should all be thinking about when we place our 'X's in May. Would a life of spending cuts and privitisation under the Torys be any better (or worse) than BSF under Labour? Is there another choice?
    i believe you might be falling into the trap of accepting the mainstream myths about tory cuts vs labour spending.

    I don't think that's the reality, it's more a case of degrees of and timing of cuts. There doesn't appear to be a great deal of difference between the parties...it's likely whoever wins will have years of running budget deficits, and a need to maintain spending to a certain level.

    the tories have already talked about ringfencing education and health budgets, so what cuts exactly are we voting for ? Not major cuts in education it appears....it's once again going to be a case of how it's divvied up....it's the allocation game again.

    Or have people really gotten that used to relying on labour to come to the rescue of their job and income insecurities ? from the big, bad tories. that they're prepared to believe in fairytales.

  12. #25

    tmcd35's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    i believe you might be falling into the trap of accepting the mainstream myths about tory cuts vs labour spending.
    I've just looked at all three parties websites -

    Under Economy - Labour boasts about the money they've spent and the good it's done. - Conservatives boast about tax cuts (not spending cuts) - Lib Dems argue for reforming the tax system, tax cuts for the poor paid for by tax rises for the rich.

    Under Schools - Labour are commited to BSF - Conservatives want to build more Academies - Lib Dems want to turn Academies into Sponsored Schools and break schools away from government control.

    the tories have already talked about ringfencing education and health budgets
    Couldn't find any mention of this. Certainly not in their policies. Talk but no promise?


    But the key point is no matter who gets in they can't afford to give us more money. Labour can't borrow more (can they?) and are commited to spending - read tax increases to pay for it all. Conservatives are want to cut taxes and pay of the national debt ASAP.

    If our IT budgets are already underfunded and central government obviously can't afford to make up the difference, what then?

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    I've just looked at all three parties websites -

    Under Economy - Labour boasts about the money they've spent and the good it's done. - Conservatives boast about tax cuts (not spending cuts) - Lib Dems argue for reforming the tax system, tax cuts for the poor paid for by tax rises for the rich.

    Under Schools - Labour are commited to BSF - Conservatives want to build more Academies - Lib Dems want to turn Academies into Sponsored Schools and break schools away from government control.
    The fiscal responsibility bill will put the onus on whichever govt. is in power to reduce the deficit in halve within four years. The tories seem to be saying the govt. can do slightly better than this...and many would agree, so it's not a major difference with what big spending labour are planning. Infact what labour are planning doesn't seem to put much urgency on the issue of the public finances it all.

    Couldn't find any mention of this. Certainly not in their policies. Talk but no promise?
    As i said, they've talked about this.... But then with the public finances as they are, it might be unwise to commit to ringfencing anything. that kind of rigidity in forward plannig i don't like. maybe they've thought better of it.

    But the key point is no matter who gets in they can't afford to give us more money. Labour can't borrow more (can they?) and are commited to spending - read tax increases to pay for it all. Conservatives are want to cut taxes and pay of the national debt ASAP.
    In light of the above, both parties are intent on cutting the deficit, both parties seem to want to maintain spending in some areas, both will have to maintain some tax hikes. Yes, maybe the tories are more so focused on the first bit.....but then such urgency isn't unwarranted.

    I hardly think you can talk about labour using taxation to spend as opposed to the tories cutting taxes left, right and centre. Where are the numbers that point to it being a ying or yang choice like that ?

    If our IT budgets are already underfunded and central government obviously can't afford to make up the difference, what then?
    That's the problem, isn't it ? In an ideal scenario there should be enough central funding for a 100k rolling budget over 5 years for IT spend within your school. But then there is such variances amongst schools, as to how much they want to commit to IT, in addition to how much they feasibly can.

    Whether at local or national level, the budgets never seem to be enough. There's always underfunding, but do you spend more to address that underfunding issue or do you undertake a reevaluation of how you spend and where it goes. Are there some ideas/initiatives which were devised and funded in the boom times, which should no longer be funded as they were, going into the new decade......maybe it's the politicians who need to get back to basics, and focus funding on where it's needed, rather than where we erm, think, it might / possibly / who knows make a difference.

    Ofcourse every org and initiative which has been devised by labour has a list of reasons why it should continue to get the same public funding as before and why they should continue to exist, but then they would say that wouldn't they ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    Couldn't find any mention of this. Certainly not in their policies. Talk but no promise?
    You could say the same of all the parties - even when they pledge to something, it doesn't mean they won't do the opposite. (See Labour's pledge to not introduce tuition fees in the 2001 election - they introduced them before the next general election.)

    All the main parties are talking about not cutting spending on front-line education - the question is what they define as front-line? I'd argue that IT (and its support) is every much as front-line as teaching staff and teaching assistants. I think that's something we need to ensure is recognised.

    Quote Originally Posted by tmcd35 View Post
    If our IT budgets are already underfunded and central government obviously can't afford to make up the difference, what then?
    I suspect we'll end up with a two tier system. Non-BSF will have to "make do and mend", while BSF IT spending will be ring-fenced because it's a contract. At some point someone will turn around and point out how much better IT is under BSF, completely failing to recognise the difference in funding.

    (Alternatively, others will point out some schools without the budget who have been agile and innovative on a shoe-string, and hold them up as an example of how we can cut IT spending in BSF IT!)

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    Posted reply on your response blog!

    Wish my ICT budget was £75k... I've been informed we have a £6k budget and 8-10k capital funding.... and that's it!

    Primary ICT is even more underfunded than secondary, they rely on grants once a decade to keep up to scratch.

    The problem is, Secondary school's budgets invariably go into flogging the dead horse of a network to keep ticking along as long as it can, meaning no money for peripherals like whiteboards, visualisers etc.

    Primary's rely on grants to buy equipment, so tend to have a good amount of IWB's and other learning aids, but their core network is generally years behind what it should be.

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    Well having just read all these posts, i feel like a rant if i may. i started in a small cupboard for a technicians room, but i could see the potential of technology, so i went for the largest old toilet room, i could find. Now ten years later i've got the cupboard and the toilet. What i think we have to spell out to teaching staff or the education sector is you are not going to be able to teach without techies and their vast range of skills. I came into techland with windows 95. Ever since then i have had to re-study to keep up to date with whats out there, now coming up to windows 7. Thats just the operating system, then the server and then smartboards and projectors etc etc etc. Everyone getting the drift. Not doing teachers down, but one and one will always make two ! maths, english etc etc wont change at the rate technology is doing, and we are always there learning more to keep the teaching going. My point is for all techies to get in to the management team at school let them know just how important we are as a part of the teaching environment. Many techies have many years of studying under their belt with more years studying to come just to keep on top. It is time the government and education sector recognised what is needed for future teaching and got behind the efforts made by technicians and included them in developing a structured plan for future development.

    Oh heck, gone on a bit, but you know what i mean.
    Catch you later

  17. #30

    mattx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bossman View Post

    In the normal workplace an end user would probably have the use of 2 to 3 applications, 5 or 6 at max, in education it is not unusual to have between 200 2 500 different applications which the teaching staff and admin staff expect to work well all of the time.

    This amount of demand puts an awful lot of strain on both the network and the IT support team and this is where the professional skill is at the cutting edge of education. Some schools have very forward thinking Head Teachers and Governors who believe that the school is no longer just that, it is in fact a business and it is run on a very tight budget and so the professional person who runs the IT is in fact an integral part of the business and as such should be nurtured as the whole system is central to a good run school which is in the business of educating our youth.
    This is the problem I am now having, along with the brainless tasks of showing the teacher a million times how to get the IWB working, or how a volume control works you now have to be an expert on the 100s of apps installed and quite frankly I have NO INTEREST in those applications. Call me lazy, but that is NOT MY JOB. If they work then that is my job done, call me when they error.
    I no longer want to have to learn new OS in my own time, I don't want to learn about VMware / ESx but I have to, I don't want to learn about SANS, ISCSI and all that but I have to and I have to in my own time but now I don't want to. I have my OWN life and my own children to bring up, I don't want to know about this things anymore - however send me on training courses during YOUR time and I won't have a problem.....
    Last edited by mattx; 1st March 2010 at 06:49 PM.

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