Every school is aware it has blind spots. A high number of them usually sit within the reliability and compliance of the IT provision. Senior leaders know that they don’t have complete knowledge of the status of critical processes and systems, while also being aware that the true picture is often not the one they presented with. The spectre of the unknown haunts the back of their minds as they consider the horror of a gap in their safeguarding compliance, the complete loss of critical data or the shutdown of the school network.
With glittering new education technology arriving by the ton at the annual BETT Show this week, it’s worth taking stock and assessing the condition of your existing provision before you go ahead and add anything more exciting to it. In order to help you - and based on our experience with schools over the past year - here’s our top 5 places to look:
Safeguarding: Filtering and Policies
We’ve blogged about this a lot recently, but it remains that case that, despite everyone having a copy of Keeping Children Safe in Education, ensuring a compliant set of policies and processes in place is very difficult to achieve. The schools we work with have been amazed to find just how much more is involved than providing a filtering solution. Before rushing out and buying more devices, or extending your creative teaching practice to include more online tools, our advice is to get a thorough safeguarding review from an independent source. They should provide an action plan to remove your blind spots and support you to get the required dynamic processes (and people) in place to ensure compliance.
In the meantime, challenge your IT/Network Manager and your Designated Safeguarding Officer to produce a weekly report on trends in students’ browsing habits. The existence and quality of this should be a good place to start in assessing the size of your blind spot.
It’s a laborious job to get right, but schools rarely have a set of complete and up to date documentation that covers the structure of their network and recover their critical systems (eg: admin passwords, routing tables, VLANs, 3rd party support contracts & contact details, disaster recovery procedures, asset register). Documenting systems and recovery procedures is essential in the event that a disaster strikes and key personnel have left, or are unable to come into work to provide leadership in getting everything back up and running quickly. Often this process is considered second place to the operational activities of providing support to users. But even where we’ve seen it completed, documentation has rapidly become useless due to a lack of updating and monitoring.
Documentation therefore needs to remain ‘dynamic’ in order to be useful. There are plenty of templates online that your IT/Network Manager can use to build a comprehensive set of documentation. However, our recommendation is that you get this quality assured by an expert, as it is surprisingly easy to pick a poor template, or create new blind spots by overlooking critical data.
Most schools are uncertain of whether their support is effective, as monitoring is largely by anecdotal evidence from users or the examination of progress on a specific problem(s). School IT Support functions are often run from a legacy of organic growth and inefficiencies have built up around the edges, only to be found when something suddenly starts to go wrong. When considering new technology, or developing a new strategy, we often find that schools are uncertain of whether they have the right blend of people and processes in place to ensure their objectives are achieved. For example, if you were to add 300 student devices to your school network, have you got the resources and skills in the team to ensure the necessary changes to the network capacity, helpdesk procedure, disaster recovery plan, policies, plus ensure the hardware and applications are correctly specified and supported? Right now, do you know what an effective support model looks like for your school? If teachers want to innovate and lead the charge towards improving learning outcomes with technology, what do the right roles and working practices look like?
Successful IT provision relies upon the procedures and skills employed by the people who are tasked with ensuring technology delivers the intended impact. This team of people stretches from the top of the school to the bottom and is only as strong as its weakest process or skillset. Before making any substantial changes or investment, our advice is always to ensure your strategy and objectives are clear then conduct a full review of the capacity and capability of your wider team to deliver it.
ICT Health Check and Safeguarding Review - Limited Offer
Illuminating blind spots is our speciality. We're already conducting a comprehensive ICT and Safeguarding Health Check for a number of new clients this year. We have a limited offer of 10% discount for new client schools registering an interest for a ICT and Safeguarding Health Check by Friday 3rd of February 2017, for delivery in March, April or May 2017.
Contact us to register your interest or to obtain reference sites and discuss how we can help bring full visibility to your ICT provision.
The banner image for this blog is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license. Link to original image by Joel Friesen, here.