• EduGeek in the TES With Your Comments.

    Remember that nice journalist who was asking about if we'd been ripped by suppliers or contractors? Well, the article is up here on the TES: Schools being treated like 'an open chequebook', says NAHT - News - TES Connect

    Schools being treated like 'an open chequebook', says NAHT

    News | Published in The TES on 30 April, 2010 | By: Richard Vaughan


    Union calls for inquiry into supply and repairs of IT equipment after uncovering 'dodgy practice'

    Headteachers union the NAHT this week said it had uncovered evidence of the "dodgy practice" of schools being "ripped off" in the supply and maintenance of IT equipment.

    Speaking ahead of its annual conference in Liverpool, the union has called for a "major inquiry" into the procurement of IT equipment, for fear of schools being treated like an "open chequebook" by companies.

    In a report commissioned by the NAHT, schools and teachers have revealed they have been forced into buying equipment they do not need or become tangled in expensive contracts that end up costing the school thousands of pounds more than was needed.

    The report quoted forum posts from EduGeek, a website for IT professionals working in schools, which listed a raft of examples of schools being taken for granted by companies. One IT expert said companies exploited teachers' lack of knowledge, charging vastly different sums from one teacher to the next.

    The expert said: "I manage a college and several primary schools. The previous IT teacher was charged £3,500 (for an empty server cabinet) and £145 per network point. I was using the same installer at the same time at my previous college and they charged me £600 for the same cabinet and £45 per point.

    "I also had a local authority-approved electrician try to charge £2,800 for five sockets for over-head projectors (the job was completed for £345 by another (electrician))."

    The news comes just weeks after The TES revealed that a school had spent £250,000 on three photocopiers after becoming caught in expensive leasing arrangements.

    Richard Spragg, an IT professional who runs a company offering support to primary schools, said he was often staggered by what he saw.

    "When I go into schools, there are far too many companies that seem to treat them like an open chequebook," Mr Spragg said.

    "Schools bring in IT companies and trust them to do things. But so often, I find that it has not been done properly."

    NAHT general secretary Mick Brookes has called for a Which? guide for schools when it comes to IT procurement, claiming that the targeting of schools could become a "major scandal".

    Mr Brookes said: "We believe that there should be a major enquiry into the provision of and maintenance of IT equipment."
    A pretty well written and to the point article, which I feel just scratches the surface of this matter. Don't even get me started on the (now former) teacher I have found out about who spent £250,000 on IT equipment in a 5 year period in return for £10,000 of personal 'gifts'. This was a primary school. And a friends company.

    Edited to add: You can download the report from the NAHT site here: http://www.naht.org.uk/welcome/resou...d-off-schools/
    This article was originally published in forum thread: EduGeek in the TES with your comments. started by Dos_Box View original post
    Comments 29 Comments
    1. PiqueABoo's Avatar
      PiqueABoo -
      Cursed by a rusty security 'mindset', I first think the idea has merit and inevitably gravitate towards ways to break it.. sorry.

      To begin there is this line in the report: all of these initiatives may be struggling for awareness among many heads. How would an Edugeek initiative overcome that very real difficulty?

      Reasonable price ranges for computers are relatively easy but that is a fraction of the problem, not a central theme in the report which includes examples of 'rip-offs' concerning configuration and maintenance tasks, photocopiers, power points, building work etc. Focusing just on ICT, some areas are extremely difficult to pin down with any great accuracy e.g. what is a fair price for packaging some random s/w? There are plenty more where that came from and I genuinely think providing sufficient coverage of the necessary angles is quite a tricky job.

      There is a risk that enumerating basic features and tasks that should be present might be taken as the sum-total of what any school needs from their support. Care required.

      Primary, primary, primary! Many Secondary concepts do NOT fit.

      Finally if you do pursue this then please devote at least some of it towards the school's expectations and responsibilities, and in particular towards what might be summarised as 'change management'. The very best of techs and thus the school's system can easily be undermined by frequent change and unreasonable requirements i.e. the kind of things that sometimes feature in one of those frustrated rants BtRD.
    1. Mr.Ben's Avatar
      Mr.Ben -
      I think we also need 'When to replace things' in the booklet!
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr.Ben View Post
      I think we also need 'When to replace things' in the booklet!
      Hmmm ... not really ... I think it should be "how to plan when to replace things." It might sound like I am being picky but it really does vary from school to school. One school might choose to replace hardware which is out of warranty and running an 'old' OS, but another school might use the old boxes as thin clients or stick linux on it. Some schools might not want to do this as they have an existing scheme of work that works very well and moving to different OS and apps could actually be more costly on teacher time than to just cough up for fresher kit. It has to be planned around the curriculum and not the kit.
    1. broc's Avatar
      broc -
      The opportunity to take advantage of schools is even greater where a 'specialist' service is being provided; simple things like power sockets, network points have been mentioned before, but what about something obvious like cleaning a filter in a projector hung from a sports-hall or assembly hall ceiling? Or how about installing 'all in one' IWB systems or equipment that has to be fixed to the building structure safely?

      Should the school be doing it? Does the school have staff trained to work at height? Does it have the necessary ladders & safety equipment? Or does it bring in a contractor & risk being ripped off?
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      As with all things like that, if you bring in a contractor you get quotes and choose the best option. There is a difficult balance though ... for some schools they may contract their support out to people who will also do AV installs. That is fine, but you just need to periodically test the market for installation prices. When you get a quote from an installer you should always have a breakdown of costs and you might want to challenge any single cost item, eg installing power sockets in the ceiling for the projector. If you are getting a quote for the hardware *&* installation then also get some test quotes on the hardware on its own. You may be getting the best deal in the world on installation costs but be paying a premium mark-up on the hardware. The many decent companies out there doing tech support for schools will give you the breakdown as well as the option to source the hardware yourself.

      Always remember though within this cost saving exercise that the time of the person in the school who is managing this and making decisions needs to be taken into account. That is also a cost.
    1. Mr.Ben's Avatar
      Mr.Ben -
      Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
      Hmmm ... not really ... I think it should be "how to plan when to replace things." It might sound like I am being picky but it really does vary from school to school. One school might choose to replace hardware which is out of warranty and running an 'old' OS, but another school might use the old boxes as thin clients or stick linux on it. Some schools might not want to do this as they have an existing scheme of work that works very well and moving to different OS and apps could actually be more costly on teacher time than to just cough up for fresher kit. It has to be planned around the curriculum and not the kit.
      That is a better use of English than me GrumbleDook and I agree.....

      Hang on, that sounds like FITS, which having done the course (and excellent it was too!) covered a lot of this, and as the article says, is getting very little attention from those who have the ultimate responsibility.

      Sometimes I feel like I'm the tail wagging the dog rather than how it should be, the dog (SMT :-)) wagging the tail (Me!)

      To play devils advocate though here are a few statements:

      Why not have reasonable timeframes to replace equipment? I produce plans to replace all of our kit over 6 years and pass them onto the Bursar so we can plan ahead. We have also agreed the maximum amount of connected devices that we can afford (this is reviewed annually)

      Re-using old equipment once it has been replaced can be dangerous, especially in schools who pay for support, the support cost will eventually exceed the cost of replacement, I do work for a support company from time to time and we charge £35 - £40 an hour.

      And what about when it does die? - How critical has it become - Have you then ended up with an unrealistic amount of machines to replace?

      Schools/LA's should be investing in training Teachers to use more Modern/Different Applications/OSes when required. 'Teacher Time' won't be affected then. As for the compatibility issue, virtulisation can fix this but you can always use newer versions of the software.

      How about Student time? - In a couple of years time most students will be using newer versions of OSes and Apps than we have in our Schools (Vista/7) are we expecting them to learn the nuances of XP/ Office 2003, will they be using it when they leave into the world of work in 7 years time?

      Shouldn't basic IT literacy be transferable between applications and OS'es?

      Primaries all have a paid position called the ICT Co-ordinator who from experience has very little training in how to manage the admin/purchasing side of a network. Should we be training them?

      It really annoys me how slow Qualification boards are on updating qualifications - the WJEC exam this year still referenced Floppy disks. Most of the Students taking the exam had never used one!

      Why don't LA's buy machines/licences for their Schools in bulk, therefore decreasing cost and the amount of paperwork everyone has to do?
    1. PiqueABoo's Avatar
      PiqueABoo -
      Primaries all have a paid position called the ICT Co-ordinator
      You think? I live with someone who is paid to be a Primary teacher. They recently got tagged with that co-ord role (can't think why!) in addition to another they got earlier, and they're not paid anything more or given any extra time for either of them.

      ---

      Third time lucky: This thread remains stubbornly Secondary-centric whereas the report wasn't. I'm beginning to doubt whether Edugeek-as-a-whole can help the sector that apparently needs it most.
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      Yes ... it is an issue that the a lot of what is needed in primary schools is not the same as secondary, nor is it that it can be managed exactly the same way, however there are some good common practices about how IT and IT facilities can be managed in a school. A lot of these are in FITS but with everything that goes on with running a school it is hard to get in-roads with Heads sometimes, even at LA level.

      At least this report gives me some leverage to ask the question of schools about addressing it.
    1. Mr.Ben's Avatar
      Mr.Ben -
      Quote Originally Posted by PiqueABoo View Post
      You think? I live with someone who is paid to be a Primary teacher. They recently got tagged with that co-ord role (can't think why!) in addition to another they got earlier, and they're not paid anything more or given any extra time for either of them.

      ---

      Third time lucky: This thread remains stubbornly Secondary-centric whereas the report wasn't. I'm beginning to doubt whether Edugeek-as-a-whole can help the sector that apparently needs it most.
      Apologies Pique-A-Boo, it's a paid position here (I'm a large Special School with Students from Reception to Post 16).

      Perhaps that's where some of the problems lie in Primaries, it's just not taken seriously enough in smaller organisations, and Edugeekers can help - we have the experience and as far as security, change management, licencing and all the other things that go with FITS they should be no different.

      My previous employment seemed to have it sorted, we were a secondary that supported the surrounding primaries (10 of them), but change management and organisation of the ICT co-ordinators was non existant, so we were making the changes for them, which is the wrong way to do it, but they did not engage with us unless necessary!