I'm happy being able to do changes on the fly
We were given a month to decide as well. I personally contacted our LA to try and get prices/update on the situation many times, as soon as I became aware there may be an increase and they refused to deal with me or provide any pricing information. The bursar tried as well to no result.
When we refused to renew, that was the first time they made contact, and they did so by contacting the head and resorting to silly scare tactics. I am fortunate enough to have a head that runs the school and is happy delegating, so they were just referred back to me.
If they were prepared to consider the needs of the schools rather than trying to force the schools to meet their needs, they would have better luck. As it is, it looks suspiciously like they are (and have been for a few years) engaging in empire building and creating unneccessary expense for schools to ensure their cushy jobs remain - after all, all maintenance, supply etc is contracted out to someone else, yet they seem to have a plethora of managers you have to beg for any changes.
I'm happy being able to do changes on the fly
The other thing which I don't spot being put on here about why costs are "rising" (and I use the quotes as I am someone who has spent a lot of time looking at Internet and working with our LA and other IT Managers in my county on new ISP systems and pushing for change) is that a lot of systems that LAs and RBCs have fitted were designed around having X number of sites at X speed for X years.
When you leave / pull out / school closes / become an Academy, that is a loss of a site, but a lot of the contracts don't allow much room for reducing that bill as they are fixed for a set time period, thus the LA is left with a large bill and less income, you could say that was a poor contract, however due to the vast nature of these groups and the teleco-geography of some areas within an RBC / LA coverage it was quite a smart move at the time when the money was plentiful as were the grants.
For everyone who pulls out that bill still needs to be paid by someone, that cost will, as the LAs are not getting the grants to keep / top slice (whatever you wish to call it) they can only do only a few things:
Terminate the contract thus cutting you all off in one go and saying go sort yourselves out and use any reserves to pay the termination fee
Split the bill by less sites thus you get an increase in the actual costs you pay (I'm talking about pre-fund reserve contributions here not the bills you saw but the hidden costs which GD mentioned were often not given out as people were not interested in the past)
Go back to the Internet / Network provider and re-negotiate the contracts to reduce costs / service / remove features of the contract etc...
Now I am sure some on here would say they should just kill it off job done, but think outside your own town or city, think about the small rural school with say 400 children, it may cost £20K to £30K a year to provide them with a good high speed internet connection. That school most likely cannot find £20K to £30K spare in the budget to pay for Internet Access that is high speed, supports Video Conferencing, publishing services to enable working any-place any-time by both staff and students. That school may, via the RBC / LA systems, only pay half of that for the same service, which yes is a lot of money, however its a lot better price wise than on your own. (This isn't about discussing the quality of RBCs here i'm using an assumption were getting a like for like Internet system without filtering and all the other stuff).
I know from my own meetings that the next few years is a risky time for LAs and RBCs as more and more schools look to become academy's and / or leave provision for cheaper better service, there are going to be the large bills to pay and yet no money coming in leading to "price rises" to those left on them who cannot afford alternatives / get alternatives due to geography or be bothered (which will be a large number of primary schools across the country as a large number don't have people like us working in them), these schools and children will suffer and we will end up with a digital divide once again and be back where we were pre-RBCs creation back in the last millennium.
So yes I understand you need to look for best value, I myself at my school am doing that as are others in my county and across the country, however you will also need to think how will your feeder schools cope if a large number of secondary schools leave, they will be the bulk of most LA / RBC contracts, if they leave to go elsewhere, the contract and services will become non-viable, thus could you imagine how your feeder schools could cope without quality Internet and support?
Speaking as I do from an RBC perspective, I can see and have experience from all sides really. If I give you an example, we have had a number of schools in our region wanting to come directly to us for their provision (which is perfectly fine, we would rather they stayed in the fold somewhat than have some profiteering company promise the world and deliver the Outer Hebrides). One of these is a primary school which is probably on the border between two LAs, i.e. as far as you can probably get from the nearest major city either way. They were very disgruntled with their LA provision and wanted to get away from them. When we provided them with connectivity costs, because it was a one off line (and as we are not-for-profit we put absolutely no margin on top of what we were quoted by the telcos) and not part of a bulk buy, it was more than double what they were paying to the LA because they were miles away from the city. If schools go it alone, there will be winners and losers dependent on circumstances of geography, which is fine if you have an "I'm alright jack" attitude which because of the squeeze on budgets will become all the more prevalent, but is that ALL you want to focus on? The bottom line? Is that ALL that is important or is it somehow important to think about the wider education community?
We have just come through another process of procuring a regional grid. We have increased the grid's speed tenfold (links are now gigabit into LAs when they were 100mbit) and made it more resilient offering two gigabit links into the grid uncontended (whereas before it was more like a ring) and all for pretty much the same price as before. We have had a couple fewer LAs taking connectivity than we did previously, but we have still managed it. The costs for our services is clearly displayed on our website (non-consortium pricing, so if you are part of the LA they are obviously cheaper still) and we try to be as transparent as we possibly can. The issue in my experience as has been mentioned in previous posts is that LAs have not traditionally broken down what the sum you pay to them actually pays for. Which bit is for connectivity, which bit is for filtering, which bit is for support etc. and it has also been difficult for them to say you can cherry pick which bits you want, for example I want filtering, but I don't want that VLE that you have procured for us. It has been an all or nothing approach and I can understand that from a bulk purchase point of view.
The loss of the Harnessing Technology grant has been a massive blow for a lot of authorities as have the cuts to other areas of finance that meant they were able to subsidise a lot of what they used to and are now left trying to divvy up a bill between fewer and fewer schools which eventually will become a house of cards. It will then become an everyone for themselves exercise and for some primary schools and even some secondary schools in the far reaches of Yorkshire, they will have to spend an awful lot of money trying to get decent connection speeds or dust off the old text books and encyclopaedias.
Last edited by ayoward; 27th May 2011 at 11:45 AM.
I can understand the issues perfectly. Smaller schools need more financial support to cover their costs. Personally, I've come to question whether running schools in the middle of nowhere is sustainable or economical. But that's another issue.
I'm afraid for schools we have to focus on what's good for our children who are here and now. We can't go around thinking about what we do affects other schools, because that isn't getting our pupils the best they can get at our school - which is the legal responsibility of the school to do so...
Only there is a finite pot of money, so say for example school A had to request budget increase of £20K to keep their broadband provision at a decent speed, schools B, C & D would have to swallow a £7K budget cut to accommodate that wouldn't they? So however you look at it, no one can (or perhaps should) live in isolation. We all chip into the pot as taxpayers, forget about who we work for or our vested interests. As a taxpayer, I expect the government to use my contribution in the most efficient way possible. It's the reason I buy tins of beans in a four pack when I go shopping, because it's cheaper than buying four individual tins. Maybe I'm an idealist. But of course I do understand your point about getting your pupils the best they can get at your school, I have children in school and I expect them to be given the best, but I don't want my daughter in her secondary school to be given the best at the expense of my son in his primary school. Aren't they the founding principles of the welfare state? Why should one child be better provisioned than any other just because of circumstance beyond their control? Doesn't every child matter? Crikey am I starting to become a bit political? I think I'd better stop now.
May I just clarify that these are my own views and not those of my organisation, the current or last government or anyone else. Maybe I am delusional. I know I need a holiday.
I have read the above comments with interest. I started at the school as Network Manager last September, previously working in commercial/business environment. The contract to continue with the LEA had already been signed so we are stuck with it for the term of the contract at least. I am astounded at the attitude of Babcock re the implementaton of this project. Where in any other environment would it be acceptable to give 48 hours notice of the actual changeover of a broadband provider where potentially the business would have half a day without internet? Apart from the issue of cost I have a real problem with a provider determining when a change over of this type takes place. Who is the customer? This is one of the many reasons we will certainly consider changing our broadband supplier when the contract comes to an end.
We opted out of switching with our LA to YHGFL (no slight on YHGFL, we just didnt want to stay with our LA), went with BT, havent regretted it for a second.
Bought in our own filtering, get a great BT connection, we run it all ourselves and we save a packet. A few other schools in the LA did the same and I know 2 of the 3 dont regret it, the other i've not spoken to to ask.
Part of the issue in our LA is that all the schools are connected to the LA's network and then to the RBC connection. Which to be honest has forced schools away, because whenever a port was requested to be opened the LA just blocked it.
I have since moved from the LA and set myself up as self employed and now provide ICT Support and Internet Connectivity to 20 primary schools.
What I dont like about the way our LA did things was the continual moving of the goalposts. We were all told at the start that everyone would pay a flat rate for the service and this was to allow connections to the more rural areas of the county. FGine we said we can understand that. Even when the HTG was lost we accepted a slightly higher price, for the sake of the county. Then the pricing structure changed. We no longer all paid a flat rate, the rate was changed to a cost per student and member of staff.
Now the situation is that I pay more for a 10Mbps service than another school pays for a 100Mbps service!! Why are we being penalised because we are a bigger school, at the end of the day we are using the same sized pipe irrespective of how many students we have. I'm afraid the argument that as a "bigger school, you get more money per student" doesnt wash either, because as school in a moderate income area, we get very few grants or assistance that other schools in more deprived areas get.
But price wasnt the only factor in our decision to move. The poor service didnt help either.
The only reason I ask is because if you are connected via the LA's network then the reason they charge more the bigger school you are is because they argue that the more kids you have then the more traffice you will create across the LA's network, so therefore they pretend that they need to invest in more infrastructure... Which is total rubbish, but they think they can charge what they want, and its only a matter of time before every school has an independent internet connection....
The idea of charging based on numbers of people using the services is not such a rubbish thing. I know it varies from LA to LA, RBC to RBC but if you consider that they have to provide systems (including licences, hardware, support staff, etc) based on the amount it is going to be used (eg web filtering) then the more users the more money it needs to run. Connectivity will vary, and that should be based on bandwidth rather than users ... but to work this sort of thing out you can have a complex and messy formula and you *know* that no matter how it is set out it will end up smoothing costs for some schools. And those school who run lots of their own services get annoyed that they are 'subsidising' other schools, and those who are near to exchanges are annoyed they are subsidising those in more rural areas.
If the specific funding comes in to a big pot and is then doled out to schools based on a formula (eg number of pupils) then you could argue that getting the money back should be based on the same thing. The fact that school might use other pots to cover the cost means that it is not black & white.
The HT grant being removed has meant that in some LAs all the costs have to be met directly by the school ... but it was being met by schools' money anyway ... it was just that some of it was centrally retained.
As for every school having their own connection ... not likely to happen. Yes, there will be quite a number that go for it, and a number who will be encouraged by those that provide their tech support (as it can be a money spinner) but there are many who are looking not just for cheapest option or to make the political move away from the LA ... but they are looking for the best and most appropriate service.
Many of us in LAs or who work with large groups of schools are still waiting for what will come out of the Dept in the next year about this. Public Sector Networks will be a core part of how schools can get connectivity and services, it will be fed into by a lot of areas from Health and Police, through to local community requirements. UKCCIS need to sort out their working group looking at internet safety in education and get the replacement of the Becta Accredited Filtering Provider status ready for next year (it still exists this year so any supplier that tells you it doesn't so you can use their service is talking porkies!)
Free Schools are starting to push for advice on this too ... the former Becta documentation for the Technical and Functional Specifications for IT Infrastructure have been dusted down, had most of the branding removed and stuck up on the DoE site for people to use and make reference too. Talking with one company looking at introducing a free school in a nearby LA, the IT director is worried that there is just enough rope to hang themselves on and if it wasn't for the fact that they are already an Academy group they don't think they would have enough information to set up the IT for a school. As a group they don't use RBCs for connectivity usually ... but they might do for this one just to cover themselves.
I could do with some advice on this matter. Both my schools are SWGfL and we have had details of the pricing for broadband and the other services. They seem OK to me and neither school has the money for a filtering solution such as Smoothwall, as well as only having a part-time tech which makes the whole thing more problematic.
I don't have any experience of this sort of thing so have just left it for another year. But there is going to have to be a moment when I do have to consider it.
Anyone out there in a Primary or Middle school who can help me?
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