Shift left – for better support

In my last post I talked about what we can do to make sure that schools keep moving forward.

Of course it is not just the schools that need to keep moving forward – the IT support team need to be on the ball as well. If money is tight, the teams support load will be different to that of schools that have cash.

When you take on a school, often the tickets are about keeping poor equipment going. We are often called in because existing systems and support are not up to scratch – so the initial issues are getting this working. We then upgrade and keep on top of equipment by proactive support – and so tickets change in nature from “can you fix” to “how do I”

As years go on, investment levels may drop but because the cost effective initial purchase and proactive support keep them working – requests focus on doing more, with less.

Expectations are also much much higher then when we take over. IT is utilised and relied on more then ever before.

And so the job for the IT team gets more difficult. The need to respond quickly – and with a solution first time is higher then ever. An effective support system is essential.

Our support team runs on a ticketing system, every job is logged. We also have 6 first line, a second line and 2 third line techs.

Having an effective system to provide this more demanding support, faster, is achieved by strict SLAs, monitoring and increasingly, centralisation. What can we do once instead of X amount of times?

But the key element is still the people. Recently I’ve been looking at our support and the increasing expectations and demands on it. Staff at schools want instant resolutions and out of hours support, the issues are getting harder and the time to train technicians less. Also, the candidates for the roles are harder to attract – we pride ourselves on offering IT roles to non experts, always knowing we can train in IT but not people skills.

So the job of first line techs is hard, instant support, proactive checks, building up experience. How can we help them? Because better front line means better results for all lines.

I have been reading about the shift left principle. If you have your tiered support, then you want to shift work down to the end where you have the most people – and cheapest to employ. This reduces the load on the more expensive senior techs. It also allows more proactive support by them not doing tickets. So the idea is to shift the work to the left, the next layer down.

3rd line hand off more complex tickets to 2nd, allowing more project work by 3rd line. 2nd line hand off to 1st so they can do more of the harder tickets. 1st line shift left to the client, with more self help solutions.

To shift left, you need to provide the right tools. You don’t want the quality to drop. So I have been looking at Helpdesks to support this. The key elements being effective knowledge base for staff to use out of hours, but also for 1st lines to simply choose responses that more senior lines have created once. Whilst not all issues are the same, many are. So by having comprehensive articles, you can quickly solve issues as either self help or first line.

To boot, 2nd and 3rd line only need to help once by writing up solutions which can be reused

My specific requirement is that when users wish to submit a ticket it searches the FAQ, saving users having to search and then not find and submit, and using the correct context to locate relevant articles. A system too that allows easy conversion of solutions to tickets to FAQ articles in a knowledge base to reduce duplication for the techies is also essential.

And of course plenty of helpdesks have these features, but until now they have just been nice to haves. Now I see a real way to improve support for users – with self help which is of course also available out of hours. For first lines, the help is having the option to pick a solution rather then have to learn everything again from google. And for more senior lines, the chance to proactively work on projects to ensure networks are safe, secure and up to date.

So just as it’s important for schools to move forward , the teams have to react to the demand and the pressure of having created a system that is now used so much more then ever before. We need to look at ways to support our staff and our users with less to do more, and I think shifting left is the answer, with of course lots of other strategies.

Pushing ICT forward in schools.

Is there a point, where schools are content with just a working system and good support?

Having taken some schools from a system that simply didn’t work, to a system which exceeds their expectations – is there a point where they are happy with how a system works, how it is managed, and move onto the next issue facing their school? If so, what do we do about it?

It’s a question I have been thinking about for a while. After we have transformed a network, it is a fight at many schools to continue to move things forward. This is because, in my opinion, we have had to do so much initially to put right years of mismanagement, that schools have limited capacity to keep focus on key areas in such a huge way, and once the key area is working, and working well – they quickly move onto the next.

So trying to get schools to re-engage with possibilities, whether it be new software, hardware or even upgrades to existing solutions – is difficult.

Many feel they have done their bit, and invested their money – and they need those resources elsewhere.

Are we doing enough to ensure schools keep moving forward?

Clearly, there are those who wish to keep moving forward, and this includes some very engaged and switched on teachers, TAs and pupils who want to keep up-to-date and impacting across the curriculum, and the school as a whole. They can see potential to make lives easier, become more streamlined and embrace new technology, but most importantly they can see impact on students learning, with each evolution of the tech they are using.

Others have had enough change. Have spent enough money.

Whilst this makes moving forward very difficult sometimes – when it’s not everyone’s current priority – its imperative that we do it.

Allowing schools to fall behind again, will lead to even bigger issues in the future. And, perhaps more importantly, we are letting pupils down.

Let’s face it, pupils can often use IT better then staff quite early on, schools should see this as a positive thing, and embrace it and try to keep up with it. If pupils are engaged with IT, they will use it as a tool to improve their learning outcomes across the curriculum. If all your school has is shiny PCs and Word on them, then they won’t really care.

New staff too, want IT that is at least as up-to-date with what they are using at home. What we do today in school, was probably done months ago at home by those who have grown up in an environment when technology always changes and updates, it’s the norm.

 

We need to get staff, and senior management, directors/governors to understand that like other elements in school, the ICT provision and support is a journey, that doesn’t have a final destination. It’s great to look back and see where you have been in the mirror, but the road ahead is much more exciting.

We need these key people to see, that the next generation of teachers, and the current generation of pupils are used to environments that have constant updates and new features. Their iPhone apps update nightly, with Windows 10, their operating systems constantly evolve, and they expect their learning tools and environment to do the same.

Not every new feature will appeal to all staff or be relevant to pupils (or it will be relevant to pupils and not staff!). So we need to target developments, we need to identify users that we can help, and start small.

So, for example it’s showcasing Immersive reader to SEN staff, so they start to introduce it to teachers with the clear T&L benefits, or sharing One Drive with those staff who regularly want to work collaboratively with the selling point that it saves time and effort.

It is improving key software use like ePraise’s use, by having regular updates with the key staff that use it, so they adopt the new features – or by showing senior leaders the possibilities of new hardware that are so much more then ‘just working computers’

By targeting the IT solutions to the needs of those we support, the users then use. And the more that use a solution, the further forward we travel away from the point where they are just content with existing solutions. They want updates. They want progression.

So in answer to my question –

Is there a point, where schools are content with just a working system and good support?

Only if you let that happen. And I have no intention of doing that!

 

Capita SIMs Teacher App Review

We have run sitewide biometrics for registration that feedback to SIMs for 4 years now. 

The idea behind this was that we didn’t want teachers to have to worry about registration, pupils could sign in (not forget their details or their thumb) and boom, registration done.

Apart from it didn’t quite work like that. 

Pupils couldn’t move through the scanner fast enough. That was the main issue. That, and the fact that the staff are responsible for registering children. So if they don’t scan, for whatever reason, the school still needs to register then.

Staff ended up checking attendance via a web interface for the biometric solution. Ongoing costs were significant for the hardware too: if staff were going to have to check on the PC – why not just use SIMs

Well, simple answer is – SIMs is not the quickest or most user friendly of applications, something Capita themselves are well aware of (hence the new web based version on the way).

At BETT this year I paid a lot of attention to the new SIMs parent app and the teacher app, which is more established. 

We are lucky that the large majority of our staff have an iPad. Underused, but not for long – as we have just begun to roll out the SIMs teacher app.

When you are training staff on something new, you can tell in an instant if you have got them onboard. I could tell the moment I showed this to SMT and then the wider staff – that people could see the potential.

There are three main elements to the app (available on iPads, android and Windows 10)

  • Attendance – quickly mark users present, absent, late or code them. It’s all taken live and sent back live too.
  • Behaviour – log incidents in an interface that is a million times easier then usual
  • Assessment – easily add data into SIMs. It’s that simple.

You can also access info about a particular student quickly and easily, and it is all based around your timetable. Which again, is live, so is updated with any cover lessons.

It’s simple. It is well designed. These are very important points that make it so effective. Capita could have got it so wrong and spoilt it – but they didn’t. 

The setup process is all self service for schools – and it took me an hour, tops. With no need to read the instructions. 

We use Office365 to authenticate users, and, whilst the initial setup of users and devices is somewhat of a ball ache -it’s necessary for security.

Hopefully improvements to integrate with Intouch are in the future plans – but for now, our biometric units are being switched off in Easter.

The Question.

The question shouldn’t be “why should we do this?” it should be “why shouldn’t we do this?”

It feels like I have made my impact. It feels like we have all taken a huge step backwards. 

It’s not an individual school thing, it’s a mentality of education at the moment. And probably the NHS, social care and more.

These professions are being cut to within an inch of their lives. Yet the demands for them are still increasing.

I can only really talk about my sector, and how it is affecting my role. From being someone who was able to make impacts and introduce new and exciting technology (which has gone on to be considered crucial in schools and adopted by others) to not even being able to roll out a new piece of software or idea. And it’s not to do with me suddenly losing my skill set, my drive or my ability. 

Overworked, underpaid users are fearful of the impact change may have. Even if changes are being done to support them, to streamline and reduce workloads.

The ability and the appetite to introduce new and exciting solutions that move away from tradition has long gone. Not just because the budgets have gone,  but the time and the general ability to think past the current crisis has gone.

I’ve made a real try following on from BETT to introduce solutions that save cash, save time, improve workflows and engage pupils and support their learning outcomes. 

Products that use existing infrastructure in new and exciting ways. Services that users can rely and depend on. 

I want my team and I to be more than people who just answer support tickets. Because that is boring. We want to be getting excited with staff on the great things they can do with IT.

We can and should be taking our share of cuts. But you don’t need money in the schools where wise  investments in the infrastructure have left a solidly working network – you need the will and the want to introduce, and demand that we move forward.

Do not settle for something that works when it comes to IT in a school. Because in a few years time it will be outdated and then you will be getting angry and frustrated that your IT hasn’t moved forward. But ask yourself this: do you let it move forward? Do you encourage staff to be motivated for change, or do you all simply ask – why should we change – instead of why shouldn’t we?

When is a break, a break?

I am all packed up, and ready to depart on a much needed holiday. In 4 years the longest I have had off was a 2 week holiday, which involved me ultimately leaving my car in France, along with a lot of money, a dog dying and 6 hire cars amongst the headlines.

I have booked a week off with my kids and me, being a single dad now, and having a job when I am actually more busy in the school holidays left me having to risk a fine for taking my son out of school for a week.

The orders from school have been clear: have a break, switch off. I understand this, and in an ideal world I would do just that. But I’ve been doing this job long enough to know that my best option is actually to manage contact with me whilst I am off. 

There will be times when my team need to talk to me. I get on well with my team, and know they would only contact me in critical situations. They know they can email and I’ll reply when I can, or if it is a disaster recovery situation, call. 

Of course I have used our tools to delegate roles and work and updated the rota, but even if I didn’t, I am confident the setup we have ensures they don’t need me. (At least for short periods 😉 )

This is where having a team, and particularly an admin assistant work wonders. They know how I want things to work, and they can self manage. They can handle people who want to speak to just their favourite tech and ensure they speak to someone. It’s critical to have these policies in place 24/7 to make holidays easier. 

Doing this means I know jobs won’t be missed in my absence, because I know staff are aware if they don’t ticket, it doesn’t get done – so I know if it’s a ticket it will get seen and not lost in my mailbox. Staff only have the helpdesk number, not my direct line number or my mobile, so I know calls will get answered.

Of course, some people try to get around this, or bemoan it – but I can prove easily the system works. I fact I send out weekly stats that prove it, schools with more tickets are happier – they can see us supporting them. Those with less are more of a concern, they are not using us.

So, whilst I’d love to switch off next week. I know I can be contactable to help my team mates, but not be contactable to the rest of the 7 schools. Will I watch tickets? no. Answer helpdesk calls? no. Emails? Only from team when I can. Why? It helps me relax knowing things are doing okay. And I look forward to returning refreshed and energised knowing where I am and what I need to do. 

Besides, I have no wifi and just a tablet and an iPhone, and I’ll be 3 hrs away. I won’t be able to do to much anyway 😉

Leading out first TED day

Thursday was an important day. I’d been telling my team this for a couple of months. But in a short term where we have battled staff unexpectedly leaving, unbelievable pressure, our highest ever ticket numbers and organising the biggest network rebuild we have ever done in the biggest middle school in the UK – I was nervous if we had the chance to prepare the day I was hoping for.

Right now teachers and management are under more pressure then ever before. Results, finance, staffing, recruitment and retention and many are finding their ways at some point in a conversion or life after conversion to academy.

Indeed, in all of our own schools these issues are being faced.

ICT is, now it’s working effectively in our schools, taking a back seat. This is fine, we can deliver and manage a robust network with support that impresses and cheers up with fast response times. (And I have the figures to back that up – 96% believe we deliver a fast and efficient service. 60% strongly agree we do. )

So Thursday was a TED day at our home school agreed in place of twilight and volunteer sessions. It’s the last day of term and staff were tired and counting down hours.

With these in mind the aim of the day was simple- excite to innovate. Remind staff of the huge resources we have in terms of equipment and staffing. Hands on sessions that provided useful help and allowed time for staff to get to try it and learn it. Nothing too complicated.

Starting the day off with Disney tunes – on the preface of it was different and made people smile = we entered into a 1hr intro. Get the important info in before breaking off, network and staffing update, survey responses.

Then, into Twitter for staff – real CPD opportunities and support for staff already working above and beyond was, I hoped welcomed. No action required but an insight to possibilities.

Followed by three sessions, with groups divided by ability.

WordWall and tablets.

We have had wordwall for 2 years and use is very low. We have since rolled out at first schools and deployed 400 tablets, so a whole new angle to come at. With tablets in classrooms instantly available – wordwall is THE solution to integrating IT into lessons easily. Collaborative working and sharing materials again lessens the burden on tired staff.

OneDrive, OneNote and Skype for classrooms.

 All our teaching staff a TAs have iPads. We have 110 for students. The ability for onedrive to to now simplify the sharing and editing of documents across platforms and the offer of free office for staff and students really went down well with staff. Combined with a demonstration of OneNote staff could see the future, now. Collaborative anywhere working to suit them with minimal hassle.

Skype for classrooms was as simple as a video introducing the possibilities. And the offer of us doing everything else to set it going for staff.

And then came our final session: minecraft edu.

Minecraft edu is a future learning tool. There are no clear, quick and easy uses at a middle school, but there are exciting possibilities to use the tool within existing scopes of work now staff are at least aware of it.

An easy session, where you can easily see those open to possibilities and those who hide behind a shroud of “it’s beyond me”

The thing is – in our school ICT is integral. And I reaffirmed that our support team, 7 strong with 3 tiers is theirs for use.

My principal have me the best compliment the other week- “you are not like normal network managers”

Gone are the days where we can hide in our offices. We are part of the learning system, our systems enable – and we can’t deploy and expect we should teach and develop.

The techs were well out of their comfort zone doing these sessions – but now relish the opportunity of seeing their ideas help pupils learn.

I’ve never been prouder to see the ideas I planted 4 years ago on Monday reach this stage. The impact we have is immense, the success rarely celebrated – the failures thrust into us and remembered for much longer.

Am I proud I’m not a normal network manager? You better believe it. My staff are not normal technicians. We pick the people and train the tech because the people are what you can’t train. That’s why celebrating success with them is very enjoyable and as good as when we rally around each other when we fail.

Budgets, or the lack of…

For lots of schools budgets are being squeezed like never before.

IT expenditure, like all departments are being cut, in some cases obliterated and in some cases were never a lot to start with.

The thing is, you don’t have to spend all your budget on new kit, on new software to make IT work for your school.

First things first – rationalise that budget. Look at the whole picture. You will probably find there are many hidden costs to your IT expenditure – what websites do subjects buy a sub too without telling IT? Can they be combined into one platform offering multiple subjects at a cheaper whole school rate? Do purchases go via your network manager to check for cost, compatibility and whole school overview feedback?

What about departments buying hardware? Does it fit into your whole school plan? Did 5 classes or departments buy headphones last year? Why not buy a whole school set and place them on a booking system?

Spending on CPD just because the head of computing fancies finding out more? Have you asked your network manager for their view? Can then provide expertise or experience, or know a school that can cheaper then the CPD? 

Are staff even using what you have? Can you measure usage? Can you see impact on outcomes because of that spangly new kit? Have staff been trained? Was it relevant? Did you combine a technical overview and a t&l overview of benefit?

Did you buy kit according to a budget plan? Being ahead of the curve of failures reduce the spend on repairs – increase usage and means staff don’t loose faith in old kit. If someone has told you to replace but you still see the kit still working, don’t assume it’s fine. 

When you do buy kit – do you have suppliers who know you and your school? Do you know your schools needs? If you have no one onsite, do other schools? I have saved schools thousands by knowing the right suppliers.

Do you fall for sales pitches? Most educational software is crap. Most sales people know the words to use. 

Does it replicate something you already have? Does it integrate well? Does it force another username and password? Does it require Staff time to migrate data where another product imports existing data? How does it role out? Does another school need it? Can you combine and get a better price? 

Can you lease? Lots of schools I work with are having their eyes opened to flexible ways to buy kit and have it updated. Its not always the answer – but consider it.

Lastly – do you use your biggest IT cost? Your IT staff? Do you trust and involve them? You never know, they might have the answer you need. 

Tools of the trade

I have been trying to work out how we are going to keep in touch with people off on 4 different sites a day if not more and the logistics of not missing issues across 8 sites now. It’s so important we continue to work as a team. This is for a number of reasons:

  • So if someone is off we can cover
  • When people call up the helpdesk we sound like we know what is happening
  • So that nobody feels isolated when off site
  • Professional development

And probably a whole load more that I have forgotten. So I have decided to write a blog about the tools we use, or will use from January.

Helpdesk: Web Help Desk

We have been using WHD since I started, other then Impero, it is the only thing I have kept. I wont lie, I probably would have switched to another by now (FreshDesk is my favourite) but cost has been an issue, and how to purchase for a UK School. WHD is not cheap (Its about £450 a seat) and then a yearly support cost.

However, it does what it says it does. It copes with the different locations, and allows us to sort people by their email TLD, which makes life a bit easier. It’s not that easy to use – but the ability to write tech only notes is very useful. We work on a strict ‘no ticket no help’ policy. We have too. We support 2300 people, so our helpdesk is a critical tool, and the one thing that keeps me using WHD, is that it hasn’t let me down yet!

www.unipress.co.uk 

Call Handling

We use several tools for the phones. We all have mobiles, nothing fancy – but it saves us having to phone school receptions and have them find a techie on their site.

Obviously the phones can also pick up emails, and the helpdesk has a mobile version as well, although I may be the only one who uses it!

We have a physical landline dedicated to us at the school, which is piped through the PBX to call all our desk phones – but we don’t give out this number – we use Switchboard Free, which ironically, isn’t free for us, to distribute calls if the landline is not answered. They give us a 01527 number as well, so nobody knows.

It also means we can work remotely, so great for DR if Bede’s is down for any reason because the switchboard also redirects to mobiles if we are busy on the phones or  out of the office – we have also just increased our capacity to have two incoming lines on the same number as well. If nobody answers, calls are sent to mobiles in a specific order. It also helps us in the holidays, allowing us to all be out of the office.

The great thing about Switchboard Free, is there is an IOS app (even works with my apple watch), a webpage which allows me to see live incoming calls, and more importantly, those we have missed and much more.

www.switchboardfree.co.uk

Live Chat

We have live chat for our clients, via livesupporti – just a chat option on a page (which will also pipe up via a windows client)- but today I also wanted to set something up for the team, with some many people in so many different places, including me now being in a different office – I wanted to make it as easy as possible to talk, banter, ask questions and a moan if required!

I found a great tool – that is free to boot! Hip Chat allows unlimited amount of people to join your private chat area, create rooms and more. It comes with Windows, iOS and Android apps as well as being web based, and allows file and link sharing. For a small month amount of $2 each, you can even share screens and more. I can’t wait to launch this with the team on Monday, and see it being a great tool in keeping the team as one. Possible uses outside of the team exist as well, for example we could allow each school to have access to a room where they can pop in and out for chat, probably more for admin staff, but lots of possibilities.

www.livesupporti.com
http://hipchat.com/

Professional Development – Wiki

The great thing about the team is we have people with different strengths and different ability levels, we also have 8 different networks that are constantly evolving, we don’t sit still! It’s therefore a real challenge to ensure any staff member (and any of them could answer a call for any site) can quickly get the answers they need, without having to bother someone else.

So I downloaded Media Wiki, and installed it locally – which I plan to open up shortly, when I am sure it can be protected – and the team can create their own pages or edit others with additional information to ensure all our notes are in one place.

The critical thing will be making sure all the team add to it, so thats my job to make sure it happens, and I have made sure I have followed that up with targets for the team.

https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki

1620372_10153208794816691_3405208158670381271_nAll of these tools help us work together better as a team, and I have now got most of them reporting to me live on my TV screen which is great for me too! What do you use? How can we do this better?

Moving day

When I turned up at my latest school I was shown to a cupboard, which housed the central switch, stock, spares and paperwork and all the servers. No desk, and no space for a computer. No air con.

I had seen it briefly on the walk around, and hadn’t thought much about it, but in reality, on my first day, when I couldn’t place a laptop on the desk, I went to my new headteacher and highlighted the issue. Luckily for me, he agreed, especially as I was about to appoint a technician, and within a few months I had a server room, with aircon (and now two!) and an office fit for two, with a handy repair area.

 

saying goodbye to the old office
 
I know how lucky I was, especially when the office was air conditioned last summer. 

Back in the day the office was made for two, te team grew to 3,4 and now 7 of us. Bar our weekly meeting, we won’t all be there at the same time – but still the office was cramp. Whenever anybody came in, it knocked the poor person at the end desk, meetings were impossible, and the ability to be able to concentrate with everything a Helpdesk serving 7 schools brings was not possible!

So, with this in mind we have moved over Christmas, to the old caretakers bungalow. It certainly has more space, we can now fit 5 desks, I get my own office and the techies don’t have to work on a chair with their laptop and no desk! 

   

  

 We had to increase compactly from a 1GB UTP link to a 10GB backbone extension, upgrade power and phone lines coming in (we use an online switchboard but we only had one incoming line, we now have 2 lines to handle extra calls, and from 2 internal lines to 5 before calling out to mobiles), but new furniture was also needed with the extra people!

It’s not all roses, we will have to share with music rehearsals daily, but hopefully that is a temporary thing.  It’s been great to get the support now we are supporting so many schools, and the recognition that  any investment to the team allows for extra benefits overall for the home school. 

Stop. Collaborate and listen.

I’ve been following reaction to a blog post on Twitter, by Mark Anderson the problem with technicians (@ictevangalist) http://ictevangelist.com/the-problem-with-technicians/ and a subsequent follow up from @jonwitts http://www.jonwitts.co.uk/archives/760 in defence of technicians.

Mark’s post describes the infuriation of teaching for staff when IT seemingly block their desire to embrace new technology. Jon agrees with parts of the post, but outlines difference and issues techs face in education today.

This isn’t a reply to either. More of a personal journey where I have been guilty of both doing too little and doing too much. Finding a balance, and a system that works. The main point however is one of mutual trust, and the impact that can have.

When I started supporting IT in schools 10 years ago, I was the bottom of the bottom of the rung for staff. Valued only in a brief moment when I fixed something, but only in a bit of pity. My £14k a year didn’t make me feel valued. I was young, and eager to please, and progress. I worked long hours,  but suffered at the hands of a work place bully in a system which didn’t allow for anyone to progress unless you were a teacher.

As is often the way, when I decided to challenge myself and leave my comfort zone, the school I was leaving panicked. Perhaps they realised what they were losing, a passionate, determined individual, or perhaps they just couldnt bare the hassle of retraining someone else. Suddenly, the offer of money was no longer an issue, a £4K a year rise to keep me couldn’t keep me. My new school matched an improved offer and off I went. 

Excited to develop myself from working in an atmosphere where I could do what I wanted when I wanted but not get appreciated, I was promised big things.
Sadly they didn’t materialise. Whilst not the worst move, the school I moved to valued staff even less, and crucially there was no ability to deviate, under my then manager, from changing toners.

At both schools, the result of not being engaged with or trusted was the same, staff not listened to nor given  The opportunity to interact with those higher up to harness the incredible power of IT to affect so many parts of a school. Those in higher places with responsibility for IT were not interested.  Those I worked with were overworked and demotivated from years of pushing and getting nowhere. To the point even when new leadership came in they were no longer prepared to fight and engage with new visions, but became locked into downward spirals of protectionism and mundane day to day task. 

Deviation from their set tasks led to worries about who would get blamed, or, who would do the additional workload as no additional TLR structures exists for support staff.

After 4 years, and a time where I concentrated on my own business and family life, it was clear, with a baby on the way, that it was time to move on. I am a confident, not easily scared individual who doesn’t get put off target. This pees off a lot of people who don’t like change. It excites me.

I left my job on a whim for no more money, just a title. But I was now network manager. The boss of the network. I landed with a headteacher who harnessed my passion, trusted my vision and developed my skills. Huge budgets, school wide changes. Instant impacts and overwhelming changes followed. That was 3.5 years ago.

Today, I am a member of SMT. Probably something I am most proud of and most shocked at. It’s not the title anymore, but the recognition that somebody in my role can make an impact and should be involved from the start in the decision making progress. That experts in their fields can and should be listened to despite the fact we are not teachers.

Teams have different strengths. Our SMT and separate SLT structure are ideal in that the leaders can lead (SLT) but the enablers are there to support them (SMT). We have teachers, but support staff are represented with the Senco, business manager and myself. None of the positions are token roles but are in place to enable teaching and learning to be the best experience it can be by harnessing the knowledge and passion of a wide range of staff.

In IT sometimes we have to say no. Mostly we say yes, all the time we should offer encouragement and ideas and workarounds if given the opportunity. And that’s the key thing in this debate that has been going on for years, that I experience even to this day across the 7 schools who sat down and listened to me. Who now rave about their support, but also the impact engaging wth us has made.

One thing I always insist on my team is the need to be professional, and treat others, no matter how hard that is after they insult you and your professional judgement, how you wish they would treat you. In any job that is the same I am sure, but sometimes I wish people could spend a day in our shoes, as much as I would love to spend a day in theirs. There should be no divide in professional respect between me and a teacher. 

We both have hard, demanding, complex, ever changing roles with constant pressure and changing goal posts. It’s not a completion to see who fails first or who we can frustrating the most. It should be how can we be inclusive and work together for a solution that propels our core business, learning for young people forward.
 I can’t teach. But I can do IT – you can teach but you don’t know the impact on your software or your idea on a bigger picture. Let’s work together and learn a solution.