Changing Primary ICT Provision

When I moved from a secondary, to a middle school (years 5-8) I was faced with a primary phase network. By a primary phase network – I mean a network with one thing bolted onto the other, kept going by someone who had been the person who had used computers a bit at home, and their role had morphed into something they were clearly not the right person for. Or supported by county or similar, where not enough time or skill is present.

Staff don’t rely on IT in these situations, because they couldn’t – so in our case at least it was rarely used in lessons, clearly this had an impact on learning outcomes, workloads for staff and progress at later stages.

I sold the idea of a new network to the head of my middle school at the time by selling him a secondary network, for a middle deemed secondary school. What I meant by this was a network with the same level of reliability, flexibility and attention spent on it. Half of the challenge was creating a new network, but the other half was convincing the SMT and staff that this is the way it is actually meant to be. All things that Secondary and high schools mostly realise.

Some staff took no convincing, others resented changes until they saw which way the tide was going. Now they are, rightly so, our biggest critics and our biggest champions. Which is the way I like it.

As we started branching out into first schools (and through my chair of governors role and contacts I know this applies to primaries as well) their networks are a mish mash of outdated technologies and products the school got sold by some flashy sales guys, but has never been adopted or integrated when they realised either the limitations or the county support doesn’t have the time or skills to manage it.

The benefits of rolling out a secondary network into first and primary schools is something I have seen first hand. It’s what the teachers desperately want to enable them to prepare pupils for secondary education. It is what secondary schools need in place at primary level to make the biggest impact across the curriculum later on – but especially in the new computing curriculum.

Networks we have taken over struggled to run anything but office. Security policies and data protection was ignored ‘for the greater good’ – even worse, sometimes the schools simply go overboard in the opposite direction due to a lack of understanding.

One of the most rewarding things I do, and what other schools need, is someone they can ask a few questions to, someone they can tell an outcome, and get a solution that will make it happen.

All 3 of the first schools we support have been less accepting of secondary changes. But now all 3 schools wouldn’t be without them.

“We don’t use email” … “Nobody will use remote access” … are the two most common, swiftly followed by calls (like today actually) when they forget to change their expired password before the holiday and want to use remote desktop or check their email via the Exchange 2013 webmail. We regularly get told now how they cannot live without these things.

I wonder if we took a look, nationally, at the state of first/primary schools IT – and made a real effort to make the IT in them effective, what effect this would have on results and long term budgets. Better results, lower costs, particularity in staffing (because yes, some still pay people to enter marks from a paper register into SIMs)

I strongly believe that an effective IT system is the spine on which schools are now built from. It’ been amazing to transform some schools into secondary networks, and watch them thrive.

Working in a MAC, and I would imagine in other academy changes this is one of the small benefits of academies, that these primary networks are coming under the wing of experienced network managers and support teams, and the SMT that manage them and understand the strategic benefits. Many more SMT are are nowadays of the importance, we are going through a time of change in that respect.

So much so, that the term we are looking for is not a secondary network – it is simply a network, that works.