• 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. featured_spectre's Avatar
      featured_spectre -
      A major inquiry?would that be aimed at the schools or the companies? Most of us here strive for the best deals we can get! It isn't our fault if some companies *try* to fleece us!

      However that is a well written article, and you are right, it does just scratch the surface!
    1. PiqueABoo's Avatar
      PiqueABoo -
      There's a problem? Quick, let's have an enquiry, preferably a very expensive one, that'll fix it for sure..
      ::screams::

      I guess this is the full NAHT report: NAHT IT SURVEY REPORT. I found some of the quotes in there umm.. 'interesting'
    1. dwhyte85's Avatar
      dwhyte85 -
      I thought schools went through strict auditing... I know we do, any large expenditure must go through 3 or more suppliers, in my case anything over £3K.

      Even with an outsourced IT provider should a school be allowing sole suppliership of goods?
    1. leco's Avatar
      leco -
      There's nothing wrong with a single supplier, as long as the audit trail is there, to show that the school's procurement procedure has been followed and that best value is the result.
    1. dwhyte85's Avatar
      dwhyte85 -
      Audit trail would ask for more than one quote to find the best quote? Do you mean if the outsourced IT get 3 quotes... or do you mean using one reseller is OK?
    1. leco's Avatar
      leco -
      I meant as long as three quotes were obtained. Don't know about outsourced IT as most of mine are in-house procurement.
    1. featured_spectre's Avatar
      featured_spectre -
      I have a dedicated section in my inbox for quotes, with subsections relating to what is needed. EG I asked Simon and 2 other companies for quotes on a server NIC, I received said quotes and they went into a folder labeled "server NIC - date required DDMMMYYYY" an that's how it is for ALL of my quotes. In the past we hae been audited a few times and this system has saved time for myself and auditors alike.

      There should be a review of the system, and if schools have a need, there should be a nationally set guideline price at which 3 quotes are required (for us anything over £3000) and where 5 quotes are needed (anything over £25000 for us). That would be better IMHO. Also an audit of the whole school every 3-5 year wouldn't be bad as it ensures people are sticking to guidelines.
    1. localzuk's Avatar
      localzuk -
      Our system is 3 quotes for every purchase. Its a lot of work, but it saves us massive amounts of money. The 3 quotes get stapled to the order form, and notes made on the one we choose saying why (as it isn't always the cheapest supplier). Seems to do us well. I know some schools who just use the same supplier for everything and as such get fleeced on pricing. That is the practice that needs to stop.
    1. torledo's Avatar
      torledo -
      Quote Originally Posted by nephilim View Post
      A major inquiry?would that be aimed at the schools or the companies? Most of us here strive for the best deals we can get! It isn't our fault if some companies *try* to fleece us!

      However that is a well written article, and you are right, it does just scratch the surface!
      an enquiry ?

      Nah. we're a week before a general election, an emergency budget 60 days from now and then a
      3-year comprehensive spending review with education spending not being one of the sacred cows... might actually focus minds.

      Not to mention a little thing called BSF which as it lumbers along is turning the whole IT procurement thing on it's head anyway... What was that someone said about best value and schools buying kit using the same company. LOL.
    1. PiqueABoo's Avatar
      PiqueABoo -
      The difficulty with the several posts above is we're largely talking Primary and not just about standard-issue paper-clips i.e. it's not necessarily easy to decide on what will be "best value" for money if every quote proposes a different solution.

      But even so that obvious kind of approach clearly doesn't happen sometimes and on blunt reflection I think the real story here may be that apparent supply and demand problem re. decent heads: I can think of several heads who are largely IT-illiterate, but they're intellectually sharp, inherently reasonable-to-good managers and are perfectly capable of shopping around, asking other schools, LAs etc., before they part with significant amounts of money. I suspect the schools we're worrying about here probably have the Peter Principle heads i.e. ones they had to settle for who are out of their depth. [Wish I could get a job I was not very good at on that kind of salary and then have people bending over backwards to help me do that job.]

      So what's stopping the sharp folk from becoming heads?
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Perhaps a book on ICT for heads\bosses should be created? In it should be outlined:

      What things are
      What they do
      What they look like
      What they cost
      What support costs and does for you, both on site and contract
      Illustrations and pictures of everything
      And rough price guides (to be amended yearly)

      This actually is not as big a job as it sounds. We can releas this as a booklet or each subject area as a downloadable PDF. For instance, we can have a section on netbooks covering:

      What they do, or do not do (hardware, OS wise)
      What they are suitable for compared to laptops
      What they hype will say compared to what they will actually be used for
      Rough prices and warranty info

      This can also be done for laptops, desktps and servers etc. We can also do sections on wireless, LAN and other netwrokign technologies, all done in a Dummies type format, and intended fro heads to be able to refer to it and get a quick overview fo the issue in hand, for instance if a network manager is screamign for a new server becasue the old one is about to die, the server document will outline just how important servers are, and really emphesise the point.
      Is this a good idea?
    1. featured_spectre's Avatar
      featured_spectre -
      sounds good to me DB, however the sheer amount of hardware available would not make it too feasible?
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      We don't have to show make\model etc, just cover the basics as to what does what and what you would expect (roughly) to pay for low\mid\high producst in that catagory.
    1. EduTech's Avatar
      EduTech -
      Sounds Good to me also to be honest, as we have pointed out alot of the issues that were raised were mainly Primary Schools although some Secondary Schools have also been targeted the higher pecentage is with primary. Just pointing out what is genuine, the truths and what peole actual need in schools and what hardware they need to run the common software applications etc i think will be fine. amongest us we know what applications are used within schools so should be able to easily inform people at what specifications they should be asking for with maybe a rough cost and we could even point them to company sponsors of edugeek whom we know do not do any of the above which was pointed out in the article.

      J
    1. garethedmondson's Avatar
      garethedmondson -
      In my school we have to get three quotes for anything above £1000. I mean everything.

      However, with some computer software there is only one supplier so as long as we can prove this then that is fine.

      Like a previous comment, I have sorted my inbox so that everything is there. I keep it in there until the Auditor arrives and signs it off. I then delete that folder.

      Gareth
    1. SYNACK's Avatar
      SYNACK -
      Sounds like a good idea for a section/bulletin type thing to be honest. Every six months or so doing out a sheet of hardware suitable for each type of work and about how much it should cost. I agree with the fact that it would need continuous updating as tech moves quite fast and any static information is going to be misleading unless it is clear when it was valid and how long it is likely to be valid for.
    1. SYSMAN_MK's Avatar
      SYSMAN_MK -
      One problem with regards to pricing machines regarding to spec is that it doesn't take into account the manufacturer and other considerations such as standard configuration, chipsets and such for imaging purposes. As an example a quick search of a well known online IT supplier brings up the following desktop machines prices.



      Notice that between some manufacturers there is a difference of over £100.00 for that same spec machine, but I know many people wouldn’t touch the cheaper one due to the brand. Once you start looking at laptops it becomes even more complex.

      I think such a resource would be great but also due to the nature of hardware and prices it would need to be regularly updated to stay relevant.
    1. GrumbleDook's Avatar
      GrumbleDook -
      Personally I think looking at specs based on roles would be a better option. That way you have a spec, the length of warranty needed, etc and you can go to a range of suppliers with it and get the best price for the system you want, including any support requirements.

      This would take a break down of software though ... looking at the range of software for education, servers and their roles, etc.
    1. featured_spectre's Avatar
      featured_spectre -
      Thats good thinking Grumbledook. I would prefer to see it based along application of hardware rather than brand specific hardware. Then post up guideline pricing - EG lowest brand price to highest brand price.
    1. Dos_Box's Avatar
      Dos_Box -
      Quote Originally Posted by SYSMAN_MK View Post
      One problem with regards to pricing machines regarding to spec is that it doesn't take into account the manufacturer and other considerations such as standard configuration, chipsets and such for imaging purposes. As an example a quick search of a well known online IT supplier brings up the following desktop machines prices.



      Notice that between some manufacturers there is a difference of over £100.00 for that same spec machine, but I know many people wouldn’t touch the cheaper one due to the brand. Once you start looking at laptops it becomes even more complex.

      I think such a resource would be great but also due to the nature of hardware and prices it would need to be regularly updated to stay relevant.
      This is where we start to over complicate things, which is what we want to avoid. What we want to do is to stop schools getting ripped off. If we simply state that, for example, laptops will cost:

      Low range - £350 to £450

      Mid range - £450 to £600

      High range - £600+

      A head who is reading this will know that if their supplier is to charge them £600 for a laptop that was asked for as a basic model, will know they are getting ripped off. Naturally we shall have the first couple of chapters\articles covering puchasing, warranties, support etc and how these will add to the cost and to factor these in, but as a quick guide, that is all they need to know. It is quick, it is dirty, but as long as it makes bosses stop, pause and question then so much the better.