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General Chat Thread, Support to Primary Schools in General; I can well imagine that there are a number of other threads like this on here however here goes- Were ...
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    jamesfed's Avatar
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    Support to Primary Schools

    I can well imagine that there are a number of other threads like this on here however here goes-
    Were looking to get into the business of providing support to local primary schools (we are a secondary school) to help boost our ailing budget and was wondering how other schools were going about the same process?
    Technical challenges like remote support and helpdesk software are second nature to us so thats no problem Im more looking at the administrative/personal point of view like time management and insurance.
    Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    Don't just look at the state sector - small indpendent prep schools, who don't benefit from LA and cluster support, often need help too. They'll pay but, contrary to popular opinion, private schools (especially small ones) are not awash with cash... especially in the current financial climate. Links with a local secondary that they probably feed anyway may be welcomes with open arms.

    I'm speaking from experience here. I'm sole tech at a small prep school and I've got my 'man' who supports several primaries who helps me out when the going gets tough. Others may need more of an NM role with regular once-a-week onsite support.

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    speckytecky (23rd September 2010)

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    I think we already have two schools (both feeders) lined up in interest but that sounds about right.

    Right now it’s still in the heavily prototyping phase but I think we would be looking at remote desktop/phone support during the week with a afternoon/morning on site to do all the other tasks that you need to be physically there for. We'd also be looking at doing installations too.

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    torledo's Avatar
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    what i've always wanted to know is how do people who provide support and maybe used to, or prefer working and deploying particular hardware and software combinations, respond to the challenges posed when familiar solutions can't be deployed due to budget constraints. With primaries is it simply the case that it isn't an issue because you can deploy products targeted at the small or home office market which in theory don't require the same sort of learning curve ?

    what's the best strategy when providing support for different requirements is i guess what i'm asking ?

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    jamesfed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    what's the best strategy when providing support for different requirements is i guess what i'm asking ?
    I think it purely comes down to being as flexiable as possible - not that slient nudging to the golden way of life wouldn't be possible.

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    It's a way of understanding - that we don't have a large budget and probably only have 1 server that does everything. It is a different way of thiking. One option that would be a possibility is to be able to offer VLE hosting (say FROG) for primaries. Enabling them to have it hosted and managed at an affordable rate with local help, advice and training.

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    Right now it’s still in the heavily prototyping phase but I think we would be looking at remote desktop/phone support during the week with a afternoon/morning on site to do all the other tasks that you need to be physically there for. We'd also be looking at doing installations too.
    That sounds about right. Whether it *is* right depends on the character of the school.. which in turn usually depends on the Head.. and maybe their predecessor. But don't underestimate how hard it can be between the budget and the Primary s/w & gadgets, especially when it comes to the installation part. BTW who supports them now & what makes you any better?

    With primaries is it simply the case that it isn't an issue because you can deploy products targeted at the small or home office market which in theory don't require the same sort of learning curve ?
    No. I can only speak to what I see locally (other places can be different), but IME Primary systems with that kind of stuff nearly always tend to be very broken/depressing.

    what's the best strategy when providing support for different requirements is i guess what i'm asking ?
    Depends on the requirements, but I get to play with both Primary and Secondary and haven't noticed that they're especially different except: Primary needs reliability because typically a tech is only there once a week if that; they tend to get by with one DC and maybe an MIS server/workstation, so miss out on replication and load balancing issues; they don't have the Moodles, Exchanges, digital signage, ICT teachers with potentially irksome opinions etc.; they do have lots of software some being quite demanding.

    Primary can only afford so much support time and you can't easily add a box or pay-s/w to achieve something because of the more significant proportion of the budget that represents. So it definitely helps very much if you're technically adept i.e. good at implementing miraculous native/free solutions in -ve time. Trouble is people who can do the latter that aren't often content with also having to do all the grunt work.

    One option that would be a possibility is to be able to offer VLE hosting (say FROG) for primaries.
    That kind of thing gets done at county level for them here e.g. e-mail, VLE. Given the cuts there's no telling whether that will last though.
    Last edited by PiqueABoo; 22nd September 2010 at 09:00 PM.

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    elsiegee40 (22nd September 2010)

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    Quote Originally Posted by PiqueABoo View Post
    That sounds about right. Whether it *is* right depends on the character of the school.. which in turn usually depends on the Head.. and maybe their predecessor. But don't underestimate how hard it can be between the budget and the Primary s/w & gadgets, especially when it comes to the installation part. BTW who supports them now & what makes you any better?



    No. I can only speak to what I see locally (other places can be different), but IME Primary systems with that kind of stuff nearly always tend to be very broken/depressing.



    Depends on the requirements, but I get to play with both Primary and Secondary and haven't noticed that they're especially different except: Primary needs reliability because typically a tech is only there once a week if that; they tend to get by with one DC and maybe an MIS server/workstation, so miss out on replication and load balancing issues; they don't have the Moodles, Exchanges, digital signage, ICT teachers with potentially irksome opinions etc.; they do have lots of software some being quite demanding.

    Primary can only afford so much support time and you can't easily add a box or pay-s/w to achieve something because of the more significant proportion of the budget that represents. So it definitely helps very much if you're technically adept i.e. good at implementing miraculous native/free solutions in -ve time. Trouble is people who can do the latter that aren't often content with also having to do all the grunt work.



    That kind of thing gets done at county level for them here e.g. e-mail, VLE. Given the cuts there's no telling whether that will last though.
    Excellent answers

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    I work in a primary and a secondary and the basic setup is the same in both, albeit smaller in the primary. I would agree that phone support is the key, but would you be able to provide it right through the day - would you pull someone off their own job? Also, you will be talking to people who are very untechnical (!) and so you need to be able to speak at their level. It is no use talking at the edugeek level as they wont understand. You might like to think about something like logmein or other system so that you can access the primaries schools servers remotely and sort out some problems that way.

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    Although I deal with Primaries from a 3rd party support provider, I see many schools who do have support bought in on top from local secondaries - usually for menial stuff though. However I have been instrumental in getting school's ICT people talking to eachother to save themselves some money. Our schools are now having to pay thousands for their broadband (was provided by County), thousands for a VLE of choice (County semi-support LP+ but not financially) and they're about to be faced with having to pay another thousand odd for managed anti virus, as County used to provide that also. Having clustered schools speaking to local secondaries and colleges is great, in many cases we've been looking to get them to host VLE's such as Moodle which is far more cost effective, especially when there's more than one site buying into it. It does rather rely on the secondary being able to support it but it seems to make financial sense to everyone involved.

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    Right - I'm in exactly the type of thing you're trying to set up, I'm employed by my secondary to take care of the four feeder/partner schools in the immediate area.

    Generally, I spend a day at each of the schools per week - always on the same 'rota'. Of course, if any of them start to have really serious issues such as a server going down, stuff exploding or Godzilla attacking then I am pretty much free to explain the situation where I am and nip over - or get someone sent over from the secondary.

    They all basically pay an amount per annum for support - much as the case would be for any other support company.

    As you're aware issues will continue to build up while you're not there and somtimes there can be quite a backlog of issues to work through, and anything that can span between days can sometimes become problematic. Communication with the staff at these sites is one of the most important things, as without that - they'll feel as if nothing is being done (even if every issue is being fixed).

    You've stated that a helpdesk is no issue to you - good, as you'll need this for them to report issues. The major problem you'll find with this though is actually getting staff to report issues with it. In my experience, many primary school staff (not all!) prefer to tell someone about the issue, or write it in a book - rather than logging it on an online helpdesk; and many certainly don't check it for your replies!

    Any further questions, don't hesitate to PM me as I feel that this could quite easily become a big wall o' text worthy of keeping Ghengiz Khan out...

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    Quote Originally Posted by korifugi View Post
    Communication with the staff at these sites is one of the most important things, as without that - they'll feel as if nothing is being done (even if every issue is being fixed).
    You've stated that a helpdesk is no issue to you - good, as you'll need this for them to report issues. The major problem you'll find with this though is actually getting staff to report issues with it. In my experience, many primary school staff (not all!) prefer to tell someone about the issue, or write it in a book - rather than logging it on an online helpdesk; and many certainly don't check it for your replies!
    Those are without doubt the two major hurdles that will drive you out of your tree because invariably you will find yourself turning up on a day believing that nothing really needs doing, or that you have time to tackle a big job that requires your full attention, only to discover that the staff have been lighting torches, arming themselves with pitchforks and preparing to lynch you because of a problem that nobody has actually passed on by phone, helpdesk or carrier pigeon.

    They will NEVER admit that it's their fault or responsibility either so finding someone who will act as a conduit for problems is probably the most important task to complete over anything else.

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    SimpleSi (23rd September 2010)

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    So it definitely helps very much if you're technically adept i.e. good at implementing miraculous native/free solutions in -ve time. Trouble is people who can do the latter that aren't often content with also having to do all the grunt work.
    Did someone mention my name
    Si

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    Quote Originally Posted by korifugi View Post
    Any further questions, don't hesitate to PM me as I feel that this could quite easily become a big wall o' text worthy of keeping Ghengiz Khan out...
    Thanks for the offer

    We should be having another meeting about it all next week so will start putting together my thoughts and any help would be greatly aprechated.

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