Dear PC Pro,
Picture this. Your company has 1200 staff, 450 client PC’s, all of the staff hotdesk, require internet and email access from their local workstation. Your company has not invested a bean in IT for years, and not one of your users has ever received any technical training on the desktop operating system, in fact, one of the unions represented within the company has expressly forbid their users from meddling at all as it is the IT departments job to do this and not a part their job specification.
Oh! And the IT department consists of you, just you. And they pay you minimum wage.
If this sounds familiar then you must be one of the thousands of IT professionals who keep the networks running in one the UK’s schools’. The scenario described above is by no means the norm, indeed, many schools have IT infrastructures and techies that would make a similar sized company drool with envy. They have skilled and knowledgeable support staff who are appreciated and paid a reasonable wage, a well worked out ICT infrastructure and backbone. The equipment is modern and up to date thanks to a rolling upgrade program and more importantly the entire school uses ICT as an integral part of all subject areas teaching.
But then there are the others, and in recent months these schools are getting into trouble. Their ICT departments have received little or no investment as senior management provide no funds for maintenance or upgrades and divert these to other subject areas, leading many schools to become bogged down with ancient servers running NT 4.0 and workstations running Windows 98 and in some cases Windows 95. These schools are rapidly heading for catastrophe and some even have no IT technical staff at all, relying on outside contact support or a head of ICT who likes to ‘dabble’. What these school don’t realise that the other do is that ICT is no longer just a subject area. It is an important and integral part of the schools education environment.
To find out just how bad things are and to help alleviate matters in some schools I have setup EduGeek (www.edugeek.net
) an online community for school IT technical staff, and in the short time it has been running we have encountered some horror stories as regards to the way schools run and fund their networks. What it comes down to at the end of the day is a lack of trust in IT and the people that run it. Poorly run schools see it as throwing good money after bad without realising that the only way they can dig their way out of these holes of their own making is to spend money on an experienced network manager and technicians, get over the mental barrier which is unique to schools that no-one should earn more than a teacher and pay an industry wage and finally allocate a decent amount from the school budget for IT maintenance and yearly projects.
If they do not, they generally find that their technical staff keep getting poached by industry after they get fed up with the low wages, an over expectation from the school staff of the equipment they maintain, and stress due to being over worked. Supporting over 1200 users single-handedly with no budget is a poor joke currently being played out in schools right now, and the ‘blackboards and books’ mindset of school budgeting needs to be re-assessed for the 21st century.