ICT supports you – so give us some more support!

13 Nov

This article, by ICT Technician Elliot Sandell, was published in the August 2015 issue of the Voice members’ magazine, Your Voice.  Elliot has now taken up a position in a sector outside education.

I feel that more work needs to be done to support IT professionals in education. 

I really enjoy working in schools (this is my second). I take pleasure every day in seeing the changes I have made make a positive impact in both the teaching and learning and administration aspects of the school environment.

Workload

We handle everything IT-related and not: printers, IT suites, class laptops, teachers’ devices, servers, networking, wireless, broadband, website filtering, CCTV – an endless list.

Issues to be dealt with are communicated to us in a number of ways: helpdesk ticket, phone, email or the dreaded ‘corridor hijack’ (being ‘grabbed’ as you walk down the corridor). These are then prioritised against:

  • teaching and learning (T&L);
  • localised or network-wide issues (problems in Lab 6 v. whole school); and
  • effects on the administration of the school.
Pressures

However, IT professionals in education are often underpaid, overworked and left without any real support in schools along with a feeling that other staff don’t respect what we do. The pressures of working in education, particularly the bureaucracy, have led me and others to look for alternative employment outside education. While some of these pressures are often normal in many industries, there is no reason why education should be the same. In the same way that schools strive to help students get better, I think that they, as responsible employers, should be looking to help staff just as much.

With more schools voluntarily taking the opportunity to convert to academies, I can only see this getting worse – outsourcing, pay cuts, redundancies and more are already on the way. While our remit has expanded to ‘literally anything with a plug’, relying on external companies or vendors to solely act in the school’s best interests, without a good internal team, is irresponsible at best. The amount of calls I field every day from companies trying to sell their solutions, that in many cases are completely unnecessary, can border on ridiculous at times!

Change

Now while there won’t be a revolution overnight, it is important to ensure that your ICT department has the support it deserves, both from staff and leadership bodies. Understanding and trusting our opinion, decisions and, most importantly the work many of us put in, can go a long way in helping. Unions particularly could do more to help support staff on a national level to help push our cause.

Support

These are a few places where I have found some external support to help me in my day-to-day job, and I urge any IT professionals reading this to get involved.

  • Edugeek.net– crucial for any IT professional in education or industry;
  • Association of Network Managers in Education (ANME) (www.anme.co.uk) – started by two school network managers, Rick Cowell and Ben Whitaker, they provide an extra layer of personal networking with other schools, which is perfect for smaller schools; and termly meetings/conferences, with presentations by vendors, are great for professional development;
  • a union– to me, a no brainer, and if you’re reading this you are likely to be part of one! They provide that extra layer of support from outside the school. Recently, I asked Voice for some help over potential changes in contracts and they were extremely helpful.

I can see myself coming back to education in the future if things improve, as it can be such a vibrant and unique industry to work in.

I think that support staff, like teachers, are just as important to the successful running of a school, and that, until conditions change, talented staff will keep on moving…

Do let us know your experiences of working as, or with, school support staff…

 

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