High Hopes

Published by Matt Setchell on

The role of IT Support teams in schools have changed significantly – in many academies and trusts they are being seen as something that can create an income or spread influence by the powers that be.

The workload is increasing and, as centralisation takes hold, the day to day nature of the job, and the roles and expectations with it are changing.

The need to streamline support and operations, and manage expectations has never been greater. Schools are quickly realising one man support teams can’t do everything, and they are realising how much more they want from their support.

One of the many differences I have found is managing the workload in terms of the fact projects now never stop. You used to have one a year, now, with many schools they are constant. So you have to be able to manage the day to day support and the projects effectively, this means sometimes choosing your preferred route.

The shame is, many colleagues in roles didn’t sign up to be part of larger teams, they are experts in their schools and their comfort zones. As soon as challenges come along, it is seen as a threat. This can lead to disastrous circumstances and the loss of some really dedicated and hardworking people.

In addition, the ability to recruit into frontline roles, so varied and demanding but with such a low entry wage is causing significant issues. The job of IT support in schools is unique both in terms of the environment and infrastructure but also the variation of what you do. There are no specialists directly in schools. There are people with good knowledge in areas, but you can’t afford to only focus on one element. And if you are an expert; the lure of industry pay often takes over.

All of these things combined mean that the future of Edu IT support is somewhat scary. On the one hand, we are seeing the demise of hard working, committed individuals who thrive in their schools, knowing the school’s and its staff inside out. On the other hand, we are seeing the rise of teams trying to do more, with less. There is scope for specialisation in these teams, but not the pay to recruit all the time.

So, for the next few years at least, we need to rely on getting people into the profession at a young age, where they can be nurtured through the ‘new role’ and develop into the specialty roles. Of course at all times understanding that they are likely to be snapped up in industry with even the slightest show of talent, with wages and perks we can’t match.

In addition, those currently in roles need to be open to the changes happening. They will happen. You can either embrace them and see the great opportunities they present – such as team working, specialisation, exciting development projects – or hide from inevitable and be branded old fashioned and behind the times.

Indeed, my experience has been forming a team and taking on more schools has been one of constant development of me and my skills. I like to think that the working environment growing has allowed me to create for my colleagues is a huge improvement for them, and their future careers. Working in a team full stop is new, but to have a helpdesk of the likes of freshdesk, a senior technical team to bounce ideas off, an income to pay for phones, laptops and CPD, a helpdesk technician to support and more – were all never around in smaller teams and schools.

In the mean time, when we find those individuals who are committed, excited and want to develop themselves, we should do all we can to keep them – with CPD, with the benefits you get working in schools you don’t get elsewhere (flexibility, no two days the same, impact, experience and security). Like business, schools and trusts need to accept – to get the outcomes they now require, they must rise to the retention and recruitment challenge.