How does your ICT structure work in your independent school?
Typically in business, ICT would sit high up on the board (ie CIO). Many schools dont have CIO's, Directors of ICT and only have IT Managers (with the work being almost identical) or Network Managers (depending on the size of the school).
With ICT being increasingly required 24/7 (email, staff parent and pupil portals, websites), ICT is becoming arguably the most important service in a school.
If ICT were to be withdrawn from schools, teaching would still continue - the hardest hit (IMO) would be the business side - yet ICT is still looked upon a solely a support service for teaching.
Will attitudes change? Can a direct line to the top (or puting your ICT Director/CIO on the SMT) help?
Or will the position be resigned to work for the Bursar or an academic?
Couldn't agree more.
I have been working as an IT Manager in an Independent School wince September. Before that I worked in state schools working my way up from a technician to Deputy Network Manager.
The work that I do here is never ending and absolutely vital for the school. Aside from me there is one IT Technician and he is part time so I end up doing a lot of the support work, therefore neglecting all the bigger things and future planning. It's absolutely crazy.
The strange thing is that beore my arrival they did not have an IT Manager - just the technician. He would relay all IT problems to external support companies (or RM!!!) to come in and sort out.
I was thinking just yesterday that the IT in schools is just as important as the money - therefore shouldn't it make sense to have someone with IT knowledge and capabilities on the SMT? And the obvious choice is the IT Manager as no-one else has the know how on the SMT.
I am fed up of being thought of as a technician and a bit of support. Considering how much IT has moved on it is absolutely ridiculous how it is still thought of with such a low opinion when in fact it is one of the most essential parts of running a school!
The 'board of directors' equivalent at our school is the trust (school governing body) and every major financial decision (i.e. IT) has to go through them. The HT and the Bursar are the only direct reports to the trust. As for the rest of the school staff, we all report to either the HT or the Bursar; none of us reports to the trust.
I think it depends a little on how senior your Bursar is, but much more on how ICT is viewed regardless of organisational seniority.
I'm in the same boat as elsiegee40 from a hierarchical standpoint. Everyone at my school ultimately reports to the Bursar or HT, who each report directly to the Board of Governors with equivalent levels of 'power'. I report directly to the Bursar, so while I am not officially senior management there is only 1 step between me and the Governors. You could argue that on the org chart, I am a similar seniority to the Deputy Head. I don't feel that I need to be any higher up the food chain than that.
Ultimately though, what I think you're really getting at is not where you sit in the org chart, but whether your position is respected. Mine is. I have strong support from SMT and the vast majority of the staff; I could probably only pick out 1 or 2 in the entire school who have ever seen me as someone who is just there to service them (ooer missus) and in those cases their attitude is widely derided by other staff. I meet with SMT on a 1-to-1 basis regularly (with the exception of the Head as he's simply too busy) and meet with them as a group on a termly basis to discuss ICT policy. I have almost complete operational independence, and direct control of one of the largest cost centres in the school (it's worth noting than I am one of only two people who can sign off purchase orders - literally everyone else has to have the Bursar sign it off). I don't think any of that that has to do with who I report to, but it speaks volumes about how seriously my contribution is valued.
In summary, some schools do value their IT staff. Those that don't will suffer because of it, on all sides, but it's by no means a universal attitude.
I'm in a similar, but much smaller, boat to AT... I report to the Bursar, and that's fine. I have regular meetings with SLT and the bursar and I know my contribution is valued by them. Whilst not a member of SLT, I do get treated like one of them and my opinion is regularly sought on matters way out of the direct scope of my job.
I don't have direct control over my budget, but then the Bursar only has £500 signing authority!!! (Everything major has to be authorised by the the trust which is a pain) I can however sign off purchase orders (once God has granted permission!) and the only others that can do this are the Bursar and school secretary. I do feel my contribution is valued by the Bursar and HT... it's the signing authority limit that's a pain and having to run alll decisions through the trust.
I was pretty shocked the first time I gave a purchase order to the Bursar for about £20,000 so he could have someone higher up sign it off, and he handed it back without a glance saying "No, that's fine, just fax it through"!