ICT horror stories from Think IT

 

The session, presented by Neil Watkins, Managing Director of Think IT, at The Academies Show on 25 April was entitled ‘How to mess up your school’s IT… Really badly!’ The presentation explored the IT landscape in education and outlined seven common IT procurement mistakes made in schools. These included: Not having a three-year IT strategy; breaking the chain, forgetting that with IT everything is interconnected; buying with no consideration of real needs; not reviewing all potential products; installing it yourself; neglecting people and policies; and ignoring the risks… it’ll be fine!

During the talk, Neil included real life horror stories shared by teachers in order to help other schools learn from their mistakes and understand the importance of investing in efficient and robust ICT. Some of the mistakes included:

  • A primary school in Derbyshire that had issues with connection speed. Their usual IT supplier ran some checks on the Wi-Fi and concluded that the connectivity provider wasn’t offering a good service. The school went ahead and bought themselves a new leased line; spending approximately £14,000 over three years on new technologies that didn’t have any positive benefit on the speed, because the original problem wasn’t related to connectivity or bandwidth, it was their Wi-Fi infrastructure.
  • A group of students who hacked into their school’s system to change a peer’s GCSE work, with detrimental consequences. 
  • One school who had a £40,000-a-year IT maintenance contract and in 2017 had only one support call.
  • A business manager of a school who paid over £12,000 based on a phishing email request she believed had come from the headteacher. Despite the headteacher being in the next room she didn’t go and check.
  • A school in the East of England that spent a five-figure sum on video conferencing equipment before realising it didn’t actually have a suitable internet connection. The result was, the expensive technology remained in a cupboard not used.  
  • An IT manager at a school in Wales tried to fix a problem with the school’s server that occurred at busy times. Rather than seeking external help,he inadvertently switched off the internet filtering, with potentially damaging consequences. 
  • A student managed to hack into his school’s network to get hold of his exam results the day before they were due to be released.
  • A school in the East of England that spent a five-figure sum on video conferencing equipment before realising it didn’t actually have a suitable internet connection. The result was, the expensive technology remained in a cupboard not used.  
  • An IT manager at a school in Wales tried to fix a problem with the school’s server that occurred at busy times. Rather than seeking external help,he inadvertently switched off the internet filtering, with potentially damaging consequences. 
  • A student managed to hack into his school’s network to get hold of his exam results the day before they were due to be released.
  • A school that suffered an arson attack and lost all of its key safeguarding information going back 20 years because it was all stored on paper. 

Neil Watkins said: “We work with so many schools, and when we ask them what their three-year strategy is, we often get a blank look. What many don’t realise is that having a long-term plan in place will help reduce these kinds of blunders and horror stories and ensure they make better financial and IT decisions, which will, in turn, lead to a more positive impact on teaching and learning.”

“The idea behind the talk was to allow schools to learn from one another about the real-life mistakes that are being made every day, and the actions that they should consider to ensure that they have a successful strategy in place.”

Watch the Think IT YouTube channel for a full breakdown of the seven ways to mess up your school’s IT, or the five biggest procurement challenges for schools.