How do you handle unwanted ICT gatekeepers? Gerald Haigh reports
awnerdsDo you think that some school network teams are dysfunctional and behind the times? Of course you do. The only arguments with that conclusion are around “Why?” “How many?” and “What’s to be done about it?”

Paul Hynes, programme lead for new technology at the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), is a long way from being alone in that opinion. Ask that question of anyone in a position to know and they’ll agree.

The “dysfunctional” assessment was first put to me by Paul Hynes when I talked to him recently on behalf of Microsoft. He was very frank about the way that many school network teams – around a quarter he reckons – are not just failing to support learning but are actually blocking it, hiding behind technical language that school leaders have to accept but don’t understand.

Of course, I don’t have to remind you that Paul Hynes’ own assessment of numbers means that three quarters of teams aren’t like that at all. Experience bears that out too. Time and again I visit good network people – I could name some of them, and you can guess some yourself, but I won’t risk leaving anyone out.

They talk about learning, they keep in touch with each other, they go to the conferences and share their expertise. Crucially, of course, they’re supported by their headteachers and senior leadership teams.

What’s to be done about helping the blockers?

What’s to be done about helping the blockers? I’d guess that it would help if senior teachers knew at least enough about the network to be able to ask the questions. It's like your car – you don’t have to be able to mend the clutch but it helps you at the service desk if you know a bit more than which pedal it is.

Then there’s continuing professional development (CPD). All members of staff are entitled to it, and to feel that they can move on in a planned way.

There are various CPD routes for network people, and much can be done in partnership with other schools and organisations but Paul was talking to me specifically about Microsoft’s IT Academy. The SSAT supports the IT Academy because it’s globally recognised and cost-effective – the more so because SSAT schools get a particularly good deal on it. All the details and links are on the Microsoft Schools Blog

Gerald HaighGerald Haigh is a freelance journalist and the author of Inspirational – and Cautionary – Tales for Would be School Leaders (Routledge) and Jobs and Interviews Pocketbook (Teachers' Pocketbooks)  His regular Five Things To Think About columns can be seen on the National College's Future website.
You can follow Gerald Haigh on Twitter.

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