Protecting your IT provision


At the 2022 Bett show, the education secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced that all schools would have access to high-speed internet by 2025. He also promised an additional £150 million to help schools upgrade their Wi-Fi connections in 55 EIA (Education Investment Areas). Similarly, the schools white paper laid out the DfE's plan to create a "strong evidence base" for the best way to use technology in schools to effectively support learning (both in person and remote) as well as general administration.

When schools are run by the local authority, there are a lot of tasks that their IT staff complete in the background without you necessarily being aware. When you become or join a MAT, you need to begin doing these tasks yourself. Like a lot of things, it is so easy to overlook your IT provision when things are going right, but when things go wrong, you will soon know, and it can be hard to know what to do.

ICT is a tough area to get right. Not only do you have to get your head around the technical side of things, like firewalls, servers and software, but you also must know exactly what your school needs and when. Although school business leaders' roles cover a wide variety of areas, they are very rarely qualified IT technicians as well. Some IT technicians, especially in smaller trusts or LA schools, don't yet have the skills to be able to create, manage and maintain a fully optimised IT. In our experience, this tends to be one of the main barriers to having an effective IT system.

One example of this is that during the pandemic, the government handed out a total of 1.3 million laptops to enable pupils to get online. A lot of these were given out as blank canvases without the necessary security to protect the laptops from viruses and the children from being exposed to things they shouldn't. This is a key thing to get right but can be one of the hardest, even for local authorities.

 Keystone's Top 3 Tips for School Internet

 Get over your embarrassment 

 It might sound silly, but we really recommend getting together with your IT team every month to search for rude things and see what you can see and record the results. Although this might give you a few laughs, it will help to check whether your firewall is working as it should to protect your pupils if they decide to try their luck. A Keystone Staff Member visited a maintained school and found that it was amazingly easy to find search results in google images for inappropriate terms. When asked how this was possible due to the common nature of the terms, the local authority technicians sheepily said that they had been too embarrassed to test the firewall they had in place, that it should work and there was no need to test it in that way. So, put your mindset to that of a child or teenager and see if you get any results. It might be a humorous or embarrassing topic to bring up but it's key to safeguard your students.

 Always get an outsider's opinion

Technology moves so quickly that it can be hard to keep up, even if you're an expert in the field, while other areas like finance and HR move relatively slowly and tend to give you more time to adjust to the changes.

Asking a contractor for their opinion on how you can improve or future proof your IT provision can help to make sure you don't waste time or money by making the wrong choices. Be careful to check their qualifications and their knowledge base. Anyone worth talking to in technology will have to put some time into researching the best possible solution for you and may have to consult with their colleagues. We advise to have an audit completed on your ICT first and then have this updated each year or at least every two years.

If you are unsure of who to choose, take a look at the Crown Commercial Services. These ICT Solution companies are part of the Government Framework and have been pre-vetted.

Keep an eye on your server

The pandemic has really helped to push more and more schools towards storing their documents on a cloud-based system, like Teams or Sharepoint, however some schools still rely heavily on physical servers.

On average, servers last between 3 to 5 years with some better specs running really well for up to 8 years. After this time, you will see that they are still functional, but it might take longer for you to get your files to load, it may slow down, get louder, be hotter than normal and start to crash every now and then. This is when the servers have a tendency to fail. So, make sure you have a plan and budget in place to replace them when you need to. Although the servers aren't the cheapest part of your ICT kit, they are an investment for the future and they safeguard your information. A back-up for your data is also vital.

Keystone offers a complete IT review which can go through your IT infrastructure, from laptops to firewalls and give you our recommendations. We can also help you with your IT tenders, future-proofing and procurement

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