ICT in my school Part 2
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 | Author:

Following on from my last post where I talked about our ICT journey and where we had come from, this post will discuss our approach to Chromebooks.

I have had a Chromebook at home, as well as desktop PCs, for about 3 years. I must say that it was a freebie for doing some stuff for Google, I’m not sure if I’d have bought it myself. Over the past few years it has lived under the living room coffee table and is always there should we need to do something quickly. It turns on in seconds and the internet is there.

For those that haven’t seen them, Chromebooks are devices that look like “normal” laptops, but rely very much on the internet to access anything and to work properly. Yes, you can do some things offline, but you wouldn’t. I tried to do some work on the train once and ended up opening a glorified post-it note app and then copying the text out later when I had WiFi.  If you can guarantee internet signal, then you’re onto a winner. I’m sure the offline side has got better recently, I’ve just not needed it since.

The devices run the Chrome operating system, turn on in around 10 seconds and then to log-in, you simply enter your Google login. They generally last 6-7 hours and can be charged in around an hour too.

In school, we have 60 Toshiba touchscreen laptops and I am not a fan of them. The pad for the mouse is sooooo sensitive it ends up getting turned off so that the children use the touchscreen instead. This provides issues now and again, but some teachers seem to like them. My issue was that I wanted lots of devices across the school so that we could really ramp up the opportunities for the children. I had used Chromebooks before, I’d borrowed some from C-Learning in my previous school and seen how easy they were to manage. If they ever go wrong, you wipe them and factory reset them within 10minutes. I’ve only ever had 1 device get that bad. So after all the positives, I took the plunge and ordered 60 Chromebooks and 3 trolleys to put them in.

As I said earlier, when logging in to the Chromebooks, there is the question of signing in with a Google Apps account. We now all have those through Google Apps so the pupils can be switched on and logged in within a minute. One thing to be aware of is that there is the option of paying £19 per Chromebook to purchase a Chrome management license. This adds your Chromebook to your Google Apps domain and gives you control. Think of it like a regular server managing your laptops. I can control the WiFi, proxy, power settings, default homepage and much more from one control panel rather than from each device. The console also manages updates. Ours are set to update over the course of a week so all devices don’t update at the same time and slow own the bandwidth. I wouldn’t consider buying Chromebooks for school without the £19 license!

In school, we have started to dabble with Google Apps. I mean I have used it in previous schools and I am a Google Certified Trainer, but with so many other things happening at school, this is a slow, measured approach. We started with giving everyone access to the calendar which despite being in place for almost a year, has only taken off this term. We have now given all pupils a Google email and will start using other tools soon. A few classes have been using Google Docs and children are excited by the collaboration opportunities that it provides.

So, what are the downsides so far?

  • Publisher – People always want an alternative to Publisher
  • Printing – Our Sharp printers don’t like the Chromebooks – For the few times we will print, the children can share the document with teachers who have a Windows desktop and we can print from there
  • Everything is online. Our laptops have links on the desktop so that pupils can access certain tools and websites. We have had to be more creative with how we do that. I have a solution and that’s for another blog post!
  • It takes longer to  type the login e.g. iaddison@ridersapps.co.uk than it does to type iaddison to logon to the Windows machines. But the extra 30seconds here is saved as the machine is on in 10 seconds.

We have had them in school since the start of September and so far it is all going well. They are used for simple thing so far, but that will change as we begin to show staff the possibilities.

Oh, did I mention the price? The Samsung Chromebooks we bought were £168 including the license. Bargain. (We actually just managed to buy 45 more Chromebooks that were on offer at £134 each)

If you are looking to purchase Chromebooks, I would suggest talking to C-Learning. As far as I am aware, they are the only company that will lend out Chromebooks for users to test for free (although I must also point out that I run training courses for them too from time to time)

The next step after chromebooks involved looking for tablet devices. That blog post is here.

ICT in my school – Choosing a Tablet
Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Author:

In my earlier posts, I discussed the ICT provision in my school, I charted where we were, buying chromebooks and now this is about the next step.

We have a new Executive headteacher and in her previous school, she used Android tablets. I love Android as I have used it personally for about 5 years, I have a Google Nexus too, but I was worried about how they would compare with Apple. I’ve never used Apple devices, I mean I did once “play” the piano on one during a conference and I have taken a photo on an iPod touch, but I am definitely no expert. As an ICT leader, everyone expects me to know all about them but honestly, not a clue. I can fiddle and find the answer but I’ve not used them in school or for personal use. I’ve always found Android phones to do what I want and have never needed to look elsewhere.

My first dabble with Apple devices was setting up my wife’s iPod touches to sync with each other. She has 40 and they were setup initially so that only a couple could sync at once due to the bandwidth but soon she had 40 devices that didn’t sync with anything and were all different. I spent a few days over the summer holiday trying to wipe them and start again. They had apps that were purchased pre-Volume Purchasing so these wouldn’t work either. We set about deciding whether to use Apple Configurator or not and after many, many hours, we had a device that looked like it might work. We have now shared this with the others, but I still don’t think it’s perfect. Just four weeks later and apparently they’re not all synced. We just wanted an option to wipe and start again (to remove children’s photos for example) every few weeks. I know many schools have got the sync issue sorted, but I got bored with it if I’m honest. Compared to managing say, a set of chromebooks, it was far too complicated. Maybe I need to take another look.

In my school, we have just bought 10 iPads and for these, I decided to use Meraki to manage them. 8 of the 10 would purely be used by teachers in Early Years and the pre-school to observe young children using 2Simple’s 2Build a Profile so I didn’t need to worry about managing them. It was a case of plonking a profile on them with the wifi settings, adding them to the dashboard so I could push apps out and installing 1 app. It seemed so simple, it might be the way to go for my wife’s ones too… The other 2 iPads are for SLT so these are almost personal devices and they can sort these out themselves. One of these is being used brilliantly to take photos and share learning with pupils amongst many other things.

So, I knew I wanted devices for the children to use. But what for? Rather than starting with the tool or device, it is always a good idea to think about your main needs and then identify the correct tool/device. So what were our needs?

  • It had to have a front-facing camera – We have only got a few digital cameras in school so having devices for taking photos would be ideal
  • It had to be able to run the sites that we use the most – Purple Mash, Accelrated Reader, Education City, Busy Things, BrainPOP, Sumdog – Some of these would be possible via an app, others need a Flash-enabled browser
  • It had to be cheap(ish) – We had a budget. DO we go for lots of cheap ones or a few more expensive ones?

After a bit of browsing, I found the Gigaset QV830 (nope, me neither). It was on the PC World website for £70 inc vat. I read a few reviews and they all seemed decent. So after a brief chat with the head, we ordered one to play with.

It is surprisingly well made and feels solid. I have held £50 tablets before and they always seem plastic-y but this doesn’t. It feels similar to my 2012 Nexus if I’m honest! The camera is ok, 5MP is good enough and being Android, it works works well with all Google Apps stuff too. I gave it to a few children and we were able to play most Sumdog games, the dragging ones were a bit unresponsive, we played Education City and we could run an Accelerated Reader test. All good so far. I spent hours trying to find a flaw and all I can find is that sometimes the Wifi drops out. So you press the Wifi button to turn it off and on again, that’s it.

Some people on Twitter mentions the lack of quality apps when compared to Apple but we are not buying them for apps. We have a huge lack of ICT equipment in the infant school and I need to get devices to the children as easily as possible. I am using these primarily as a web browser and then eventually we will look at apps and if we find good ones, it will be a bonus.

I’ll blog about the setup and some settings later, but I gave the tablet to two teachers to share and by lunchtime they had both taken photos and taken a video recording of their classes during Literacy sessions. I had set it up so that when the photos or videos were shared with Google Drive, there was a folder waiting for them. Every class had a folder available and every teacher had a logon to then show this on the whiteboard. All of the folders are linked so that I can access them all. I can then print pictures from my desktop if needed. We will get printing from tablets sorted, but that can wait til next week.

Seeing how quickly these devices could be used by children and staff has prompted us to buy more. We spoke to PC World Business and including delivery, will be paying £54(!!!!!) per tablet. You’d be spending nearly that on a camera alone. Within a week we should have around 6 per class throughout both schools. Managing them will be a challenge, but I don’t think every device needs to be identical. Would Year 1 want the same thing Year 6 do? Probably not. I am hoping that I can use Meraki for the main configuration and then train some Digital Leaders to help with any firefighting. But hey, it’s an Android tablet so it’s easy enough to use. It’s a very exciting time, but it will bring up a whole load of new challenges I’m sure!

Category: Hardware  | Tags: ,  | 2 Comments
ICT in my school Part 1
Sunday, September 28th, 2014 | Author:

I have been at my school for just over a year and have been responsible for the ICT since February. I have had a number of schools and teachers ask questions about our approach with chromebooks and tablets so I thought it best to document what we have been doing so that I had something I could point them towards.

I think the best way to begin is for me to think of an ICT past, present and future approach. What did we have when I started? What have we got to now? and what are we about to do? This post is the past and present (well, the summer holidays) post. Over the next few days I will write the others and link them all too.  Oh, why ICT and not Computing? I think Computing is the stuff that is in the curriculum, ICT encompasses everything such as laptops for staff to work on, office computers, tablets for browsing and so on.

So, some context.

We are a federation of infant and junior schools. We have two-form in most year groups but we do have three-form in year 1 and will be three-form from Reception next year onwards. We are currently in two buildings but the small gap between us will be filled in over the next year with a new library, music room and offices. We will then shift a few rooms around, make a new staffroom and suchlike to have one building for the two schools. We also have a pre-school which sends children to us, but is not part of the school.

I started at the school in September 2013 as a Year 4 teacher. At the time, there were 60 Toshiba touch-screen laptops between Year 5 and 6. These classes had Netgear Wifi and the signal barely made it downstairs to Year 4, so we never used the laptops. I found out recently that there was also a Wifi router in Year 3 behind a desk that gave some signal to Year 3 too, but they didn’t use the laptops either. For Year 3 and Year 4, we had access to an ICT suite of 22 computers, in which usually 19 or so worked, so we had the issue of sharing computers to get anything done. The suite was perfect for Year 3 as it was next door for them so they tended to use it regularly as they could see children, whereas I was the other end of the school so we had to go whole-class or nothing. I think last year I used it five times. Every time for research purposes although maybe once we split the class in half to make a poster. Not good. There were also three computers in the library and three on the Year 3 and Year 5 landings. These tended to be used by staff or by children that were working with LSAs for example.

In the infant school, in addition to one computer per class for the teachers, there was 1 computer between two reception classrooms, 2 computers in Year 1 classrooms and 3 computers for each Year 2 classroom. There was also a Netgear Wifi router in both Year 1 and both Year 2 classrooms. The Year 2s also had 8 Toshiba netbooks. One teacher told me that the netbooks took 15 minutes to logon so he never used them.

This all meant that there is a huge lack of actual devices in the hands of children in either school with the vast majority only seeing a computer as a normal aid to learning when they reached Year 5 or 6 and even then, only a few could log on at once due to the Wifi signal. So, changes needed to be made.

I took over ICT in February 2014 and began to think of how we could approach the challenge of improving the quality and quantity of the ICt experience across the schools but also being very mindful that we needed to make an impact too. We can’t just buy things for the sake of it! I wrote about the tendering process before, but the gist is that we knew we were going to be spending a lot of money. What did we buy?

Infrastructure: First we upgraded all cabling and switches across both schools so that they were gigabit-enabled. This meant that any traffic flowing through our network would be able to flow quickly. We had quite a few mini-switches which were used to allow multiple devices to access one network point but this just caused bottlenecks. We removed all of these and added more points on the walls. This sped up logging on time for all staff instantly. We also added a fibre-optic cable to connect the two schools. We knew that we wanted one network so we needed a way for the two schools to talk to each other quickly.

Wifi: Despite not having a huge amount of wifi devices (yet), we knew that we needed to install a proper managed Wifi solution. I have used Meru in my previous two schools and never had any issues so we opted for Meru again at Riders. We also chose to go for the “ac” level rather than “n” to futureproof the system. We have added an access point in every classroom and also in both halls.

Server: Next came the server to power it all. We did have two servers but we wanted one so that we could easily manage and share files across both schools.

After some initial teething problems, mainly with whiteboards and pens not working as they should, we now have a system that we can build on. Also in the summer we ordered 60 chromebooks. To find out more about those, click here**blog post due in a few days**.

I’m hoping that now we have the tools available to us, we can start to look at using them to enhance the learning across both schools.

Online Field Trips
Tuesday, September 09th, 2014 | Author:

I have been approached by the Eat Happy Project to spread the word of their good work. So this is a guest post, I hope you find it useful.

 

As part of my role as Social Enterprise coordinator, it is my job to find new and exciting projects; linking new and existing local businesses. We’ve been working with Tesco’s Eat Happy Project  and in the first instance, their Farm to Fork Trails; visiting the store with children to look at produce, services and taste new foods. There therefore seemed an obvious link with their Online Field Trips and we couldn’t wait to get involved so that our children could find out more about the origin of everyday food. Our group chose Cracking Cheese from the Wensleydale Creamery in Yorkshire. The class couldn’t wait to participate in such an exciting and interactive lesson.

We have used Skype in the past to connect with other schools and businesses. We therefore looked forward to the opportunity to connect with schools and farms in real-time. The question and answer session was particularly fruitful and the children gained a lot from sharing their ideas and insights. It also gave the staff the opportunity to develop their understanding of Google Hangouts and this is something we have since used.

 

The children were able to see the food producers at the Wensleydale Creamery, ask questions and talk to a wide range of people whose knowledge of different cheese was wide-ranging. The children had the opportunity to taste the different cheeses, as the Eat Happy Project sent over samples for every child to try during the Online Field Trip. This added a different dimension to the learning experience and gave the children an opportunity to try new food.

 

 

The Eat Happy Project also provided the teacher with a variety of lesson plans, activities and worksheets to support the learning before, during and after the lesson. All this was free for the school and ensured the teacher was ready and prepared for the Online Field Trip with minimal extra work.

Overall, the ‘trip’ was highly positive and one we look forward to continuing to develop in the future.

Tricia Harding, Robinswood Primary School, Gloucester

 

Here is the calendar for Online Field Trips in the autumn term:

 

Honey – 11 September 1.30pm

Sweetcorn – 18 September 1.30pm

Rice – 25 September (time TBC)

Broccoli – 2 October 1.30pm

Pumpkin & squash – 9 October 1.30pm

Baked beans – 6 November 1.30pm

Bread – 13 November 1.30pm

Potatoes – 20 November 1.30pm

Tea – 27 November (time TBC)

Clementines – 4 December 1.30pm

Cranberries – 11 December 1.30pm

 

If you and your class would like to join a live Online Field Trip please contact the Eat Happy Project at team@eathappyproject.com

 

If you’d like to watch the live Online Field Trip with your class (but not participate), visit the Eat Happy Project website: http://www.eathappyproject.com/farm-to-fork/online-field-trips/

 

Or find them on Google+: Eat Happy Project

Twitter: @EatHappyProject

Cloud Storage
Thursday, August 28th, 2014 | Author:

I saw a few articles recently, including this one and this one, that talked about Dropbox reducing its pricing structure so I thought it was worth looking to see how they stack up against what I was already doing.

For those of you that don’t know, and there are many out there, Dropbox is a way of saving you files online. I blogged about it back in 2010(!!). The way that it works is that you install the software on your computer and then add files into it. Easy. You can install it on multiple computers, you can share files and folders and you can sync from you phone too. I have my phone camera set to upload to Dropbox when it finds WiFi. The thing that I love about Dropbox is that when you open the software on your PC, it doesn’t look like you are using different software. It just comes up as a drive in Windows. I can drag, drop, create new files and do everything else I am expecting to do in Windows. Then it saves it all to the cloud.

Free users get 2Gb and there are various different ways of boosting this by tweeting about Dropbox or by asking friends to sign-up via a link (like this one) Through these methods I now have just under 19GB of free storage. But with the costs so low, surely paid options are worth looking at?

In 2010, 50GB on Dropbox would cost £6.50 a month. It is now 1TB/1,000GB for £7.99. That’s progress! Think about your photos, your schoolwork or any useful document you need. If you have never had a USB drive or Hard drive break on you, then you will know someone that has. I still have people at school occasionally that have had USB errors and have lost their work and ask for me to magically fix it but all too often, it’s gone forever. When I ask about backup, they always say it’s something that they meant to do. I used to copy my USB stick to my hard drive every now and again. This is an easy way to make sure that your files are saved no matter what happens.

I have created a very brief how to for staff to try and get more of them to thinking about how they back up their work. Click here to download it. Ideally, in the long term I would like all staff using OneDrive or Google Docs to create and store their work, but that is still a long way off for some people. I don’t do all of my work online, so why should I expect others to? But if I can get people thinking about backup then it’s a start.

http://gizmodo.com/dropbox-google-drive-and-more-whats-the-best-cloud-st-1627423823

This chart, taken from Gizmodo, compares some of the current cloud storage offerings. As well as Dropbox for my schoolwork, I also use Google Drive.

Their current pricing gives 1TB for $9.99 which is pretty much the same as Dropbox but it’s the one below this that I am currently using. They offer 100GB (although I get 125GB) for $1.99 a month. I use this purely for photos. I have folders setup on an external hard drive which means that they get picked up by Picasa on my computer, this syncs with private Google+ albums (that took some time to find!) and then they automatically sync, at full size, to Google Drive storage too. Around two years ago I lost a holiday’s worth of photos so paying £1.50 a month is well worth not having to go through that again!

So what do you use to backup your files? Have you managed to convince others that it is a sensible way to go?

 

PS: Before anyone mentions it, yes there are privacy issues with storing some things online. Who owns your data? Where does it go? Will they modify the data when I give it to them? But for those of us that are already signed up to the fact that Google knows more about us than our partners do, cloud storage is a no-brainer.

PPS: Prices correct as of 28th August 2014

Sharing Photos
Monday, May 26th, 2014 | Author:

How do you share photos with parents after a big event such as a school trip or residential? I don’t mean via a blog so that they can see them, I mean sharing so that they can get a copy of a picture of their child.

I’ve used Picasa in the past as my previous school used Google Apps (and my current one is about to) and Picasa gives each user 1GB of photo storage. We simply created an account called Hampton Court and then uploaded 300 or so photos from our Hampton Court visit. This was done fairly easily and then I could share the photos in a few ways.

1) Public – So anyone could go and look at them. I could put a link on our school website or blog and then parents could see everything. But then so could everyone else.

2) Shared with certain people – This meant the children needed to login to their Google accounts to be able to access the photos. This was perfect as we had been using Google Apps for two years, the logins were ingrained and the parents could sit with the children and access the photos together.

Now, at Riders we are using Google Apps in a minimal sense at the moment. We are in the process of buying devices for September but there isn’t really a way for pupils to use the internet in school yet. So this means we haven’t yet given them Google logins. I needed to find a different way of sharing photos from our residential trip. Some parents had provided cameras for the tip, but many had not so I promised that I would take loads (500+ in fact) and then share them when we got back.

I looked around for a simple way of sharing photos and someone on Twitter (Phil_Timmins) suggested Cloudup. It’s free and allows 1000 documents/photos. Just drag and drop them to upload and then each gallery can be password protected too. So I can share the links with parents and send the password home via a newsletter with the child. Easy!

Cloudup is free at the moment and I’m sure will be chargeable at some point, but for now, it provides a quick, painfree way of sharing photos with parents and friends.

Here’s an example gallery using photos from my O2 climb

It appears that Cloudup is invite only at the moment, but I have a few invites available via this link

Inspiration
Sunday, May 18th, 2014 | Author:

Following on from last month’s post about what inspired me, I thought I would share a little bit of what inspires me now.

In my study/third bedroom, it is a bit of a mess. My wife hates working in there as I have bits of paper and post-its everywhere. On one wall I have postcards and thank you notes from 2Simple, BrainPOP and other companies that I might have done a little bit for. This might just be that I presented for them at Bett or ran a training session, but they all tend to go on the wall.

On another wall, just above the computer where I am typing this now, there are about 20 cards from children and parents. I don’t display every thank you card, but there are some, (including the one that starts with an apology about how she treated me at the start of the year) that just mean something a bit special. They are also there as a reminder of some of the amazing children that I have had the pleasure to work with and to have in my class.

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This one is from three of my Digital Leaders who came with me to LWF to present. They had a great day out and as a thank you for me taking them for lunch while we were there, they bought me a voucher for the same restaurant as a leaving present!

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This card was a little different because it also came with a signed football. Signed by all of the girls that had been in my team that year. After school clubs can be a bit of a drain after a long day and I’m glad that the girls enjoyed it as much as I did.

 

2014-05-18 11.56.432014-05-18 11.56.22 2014-05-18 11.56.34

 

These three are from parents. All very different but they include a girl that was almost mute at the start of the year and her parents thanked me for working on her confidence. It’s always nice to know that there is a bit of thought put into these notes rather than just giving the child a card and present to hand to their teacher on the last day. These are children that developed a great deal while in my class and I am pleased that the parents agreed too.

 

2014-05-18 11.56.04

This is the best present I have ever been given. In around 2007, a band called the Hoosiers released a song called “Goodbye Mr A” and a few months later, when I left my first school, one of my children presented me with this. It’s a reworded version of the lyrics to the song and it has been on my wall ever since.

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This one isn’t a teaching thing, but this reminds me of what I have achieved. If you had told me 6 years ago, when I struggled to run one mile, that I would have completed the Great South Run 5 times and ran 5 half-marathons, I would never have believed you. I’m not exactly Mo Farah and I’m a slow runner who often slips back into “non-training mode” but seeing what I have done in the past has helped me to try for new challenges in the future.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t do any this for the praise, but the feeling that you are making a difference is well worth it.

A Tender Process
Saturday, May 10th, 2014 | Author:

I have recently taken over as ICT Leader at Riders and this is the third time, in my third school, that I have held this role. Each time there has been investment in hardware, but this has been done in very different ways. I was tweeting a few people about a recent difficulty I was having and I suggested a blog post, they said it might be a good idea, so here it is.

In my first school, I was new and I didn’t control the budget at all. I was once asked for my opinion on what to do with some money a few weeks before the end of the financial year, so I picked a trolley of laptops and I chose which wireless system to install, but that’s about it. Spending wasn’t high on the priority list at all.

In my second school, I was ICT Leader from about 3 months before I actually started. The school had RM machines and were about to upgrade to the next round of RM machines. The wireless wasn’t working and consisted of a couple of D-Link routers that get wheeled around from here to there. I didn’t like the idea of the RM machines, I wanted something more like the home experience with a desktop rather than a “child-friendly” thing that they were offering. From the May before starting to the August saw significant spending, probably £30,000 on a new network, new server, upgraded switches and cabling, a managed wireless and also a trolley of netbooks. Many people hate them, but these were awesome. On in under 5 minutes and managed everything we could throw at them. They were such a hit, we bought another trolley worth 3 months later. This was all done on a leased basis and organised by the head teacher. Throughout the three years I was at the school, we had a few thousand now and again to buy some cameras, replace staff laptops or buy a few tablets, but not much else. It was all very much reliant on that first spend. Each time I wanted something, I spoke to our ICT suppliers and a few days later it was in school and working. Job done.

It is only now, at Riders, that ICT has become a difficult issue. It started when I took over and looked around both schools (we are federated) and realised that we needed a lot of infrastructure in place before we could think about buying laptops, tablets or anything exciting. Initial quotes put this at around £50,000 for both schools to be at a good stage to move forward with a sensible amount of kit. I was then told by our finance officer that as it went over £25k per school, there were EU laws in place that said I had to write a tender for companies to apply to be our installer. I’d never heard this before. I tweeted, not many people did this either. In two years training ICT leaders across Hampshire, no-one had ever asked me for help or advice on the tendering process. I got asked about a lot of things and purchasing was always on the list, but surely someone, somewhere had spent more than £25k in one year…right? I spoke to ICT Leaders in Hampshire via our mailing list, everyone that replied told me “get three quotes, that’s all we do”. I said this to the Hampshire finance team and was (angrily) told that just because no-one else follows the rules, doesn’t mean that I have to break them too. I was also told that if I didn’t go to tender, any IT company that finds out and hasn’t been given the chance to apply for it, can sue me or the headteacher personally. I didn’t fancy that.

This left me in a tricky situation. How do you get help on something that no-one else seems to do? Luckily Rob Harrison is an amazing secondary IT bloke of some kind and had written a tender for a project last year. I was able to get a copy and edit it to our desired spec. This took 4-5 days of the Easter holiday to do. Time was of the essence because I need to make a decision by half-term so that installation can take place over the Summer holidays. The tender was written, sent to some lovely people to read through and comment on and then sent to the head teacher.

Day 1 of the Summer term, I was excited. I thought I could send the tender to Hampshire and then we’d be on our way. Except the pages to upload the tender too can only be accessed inside school. That’s ok, I though. I was in school anyway. I clicked the link…enter username and password. I tried the variety of details we have for Hampshire-based things and they all failed. I phoned Hampshire. They appeared to say it was my fault! I tried other people, Hampshire IT help-based people, they hadn’t seen the form before so didn’t know how to access it. They all said “it works here in Hampshire offices” which didn’t help me as I was in a Hampshire school, not an office. Different system apparently.

So again, I wondered, had anyone ever completed this form?

Had anyone in Hampshire schools ever submitted a tender?

Are there schools spending over £25k and breaking rules?

Should I set up an IT company and start suing schools? (obviously I joke, but I was going a little mad at this stage)

In the end, due to time constraints, we have now decided to scale back our plans for this summer so that we can get the essential stuff done and so that we fall under the tender pricing structure. However this now means that as we fall into the 10-25k bracket, we need to complete a “mini-competition” and get three quotes and submit forms to Hampshire. Guess what? Those forms are password protected and not accessible either! I give up!

Why is it so difficult?

To sum up, what have we learnt from this? I’m not sure. I totally understand that there are procedures to follow. After all, this is public money, I definitely don’t want to get it wrong, but where is the support? Where is the help to do this correctly?

Let’s hope there is some ICT-related improvement before September.