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Project Management Services for Schools

As part of our work supporting academies and schools, we’ve undertaken some large-scale implementation projects. From classroom extensions to whole new classrooms, Learning Resource Centres and even newly built schools, any new IT resource requires careful planning and management to ensure that the installation runs smoothly. That’s why JSPC uses the PRINCE2 project management method and why we use PRINCE2 qualified consultants to head up any new implementation.

What is PRINCE2 and what does it mean for the school?

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured project management method, which is widely recognised in both the public and private sector. PRINCE2 is methodical and process based, which is why JSPC has adopted it. We take all projects a step at a time and make sure that all objectives are met at every stage of the process. This can stop any problems cropping up further down the line, and save a lot of time once the solution goes live.

Does that mean our new IT will take longer to deliver?

In most cases, PRINCE2 doesn’t add any time to the length of a project. The guiding principal for any new installation is “more haste, less speed” and so having a clear system to check every stage of the project can often lead to a much smoother installation. There’s no point in taking short cuts to get a new system up and running if it breaks down the following week. We work on the basis of being both efficient and effective in all our IT projects.

What do you offer project management for?

Our expertise is with technology – from school computers to broadband installations and switching. If you’re planning any significant investment in technology resources, it’s worth ensuring that it’s managed correctly. This will ensure that the project stays on time and the budget doesn’t spiral out of control. Most of all, when it’s finished everything should work as its meant to. We’ve worked in schools and academies both as a sole provider and managing projects that require a range of different providers coming together to deliver what’s best for the organisation. In either instance, whether as a provider or as a consultant, we recommend an experienced project manager at the helm to keep a project under control. This will help you make the most of your resources and save you a lot of stress in the long run.

Worthing and Adur Business Awards Demonstrate Vibrancy of Region

The 10th Worthing and Adur Business Awards took place last week on 10th November, and we at JSPC are very proud of our involvement, and the business community of the region. As part of the Adur & Worthing Business Partnership (AWBP), a not for profit organisation that is run by local businesses for local businesses, we have helped to ensure that the awards remained just as prestigious under the new management, and welcomed new entrants to represent the diversity and success across the area.

The high calibre of entries was incredibly inspiring. Our judges reviewed so many good news stories of growth, development and environmental responsibility across a range of sectors and from businesses of all sizes.

We were particularly proud that JSPC sponsored the Lifetime Achievement Award, which this year was awarded to Sue Dare MBE, who has been part of the further education community in Sussex for more than 35 years. She held the title of Principal of Northbrook College from November 2009 until March this year and under her guidance it has become England’s third highest performing college. Over the years Sue has also been involved with the Sussex Learning Network, Adur & Worthing Business Partnership and was integral in setting up the Greater Brighton Economic Board.

As well as recognising the contribution of people like Sue and business talent from across the Worthing and Adur region, the awards also raised money for the charity Love Your Hospital. This is a dedicated charity for St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, Worthing Hospital and Southlands Hospital in Shoreham.

You can find out more about the awards and view a full list of this year’s winners here: https://awbawards.com/2017-winners/

Schools and academies can benefit from the value of refurbished technology

As budgets are being squeezed across the education sector, we’re receiving more and more demand for refurbished technology. From laptops and tablets to storage and infrastructure, if you’re looking for a way to make your IT budget stretch as far as possible, refurbished kit might be the best approach and there are a number of advantages.

The primary advantage that attracts many of our customers is the cost; refurbished kit is from 15% – 30% cheaper than brand new equipment and this can make a huge difference if the budget has been slashed or remained static despite an increased intake of students. That lower cost also means you get more for your money – avoiding the newest model may mean you can choose an earlier option which has greater storage and faster RAM. Using refurbished kit also offers advantages beyond the obvious cost and value benefits.

Using refurbished technology means you can hedge against obsolescence and ease into any transitions without disruption. In addition, it means you can maintain compatibility across an institution, rather than the technical issues (and possible dissatisfaction) of some parts of the school having newer equipment than others. This might also mean different people are on different versions of software, which not only costs more but also can cause difficulties with workflow.

This approach can also help your IT team as it means that everyone is on the same integrated, compatible system. Rather than needing a whole new procedure for each new release and addition to the IT resources, refurbished equipment from previous generations can allow you to have the same kit across the school, making procedures and support much simpler.

Refurbished technology is also great from an environmental point of view and if you have goals relating to sustainability then this is one way to achieve them. Often, there is nothing wrong with the equipment prior to refurbishment, it could be an old store display model, or have one faulty part which is quickly replaced. However, if this technology isn’t refurbished and resold, it will end up in landfill. This means you’re not only helping your IT budget go further, you’re also making sure the school does its bit to reduce e-waste and save the planet.

Making the most of your IT budget can also mean that you’re able to install a wider range of technologies and allow students to take advantage of this and test them to their limits. You may not be comfortable letting a class loose on brand new, sensitive tablets which cost a fortune and may shatter during the first lesson. However, if you’ve managed to get a significant cost reduction, and you’re able to opt for a model which is proven to be robust, for example, or particularly suited to your needs then it’s not just about how much of a cost reduction you can get on your IT resources, it’s about all the value that can be returned to the classroom.

Adobe Update may be smuggling Bad Rabbit virus onto your computer

Bad Rabbit is the latest strain of ransomware. High profile cases earlier this year shut down major organisations and led to criticism of the NHS for their poor security and disaster recovery provision. Now, people may be warier when it comes to clicking on an unexpected file in an email, but hackers have taken this into account and the threat has evolved. The virus appears in the guise of an Adobe Flash Installer – something that anyone who browses the web will be so used to seeing that they may click on it without thinking. Bad Rabbit is taking hold of computers by appearing in disguise, and that is why it’s important for everyone in a team to understand IT security.

The attack has so far been contained to Eastern Europe, where it has done considerable damage to organisations primarily in Russia and Ukraine. It is the third large-scale ransomware attack this year, following on from WannaCry and NotPetya and the use of recognisable solutions such as the Adobe Installer suggest that the hackers are becoming more sophisticated and more determined.

All hackers seek to exploit a weakness within an organisation; in this case insecure websites are being compromised. Someone visiting the site wouldn’t be aware of the malware, but anyone who clicks on the link will find their computer locked and a ransom demand will appear for an average of $280 in Bitcoin with just 40 hours for payments to be made. The good news is that visiting an infected website alone will not cause any damage – the virus is only attached to the operating system once the link has been clicked.

There have yet to be any cases of attacks in the UK according to the National Cyber Security Centre, but the situation is being monitored. Their recommendation is that organisations should make sure all their security updates and software are installed. In addition, we’d advise informing all staff of the potential threat and provide support for anyone who is uncertain about anything that appears on their screen. It’s much better to have someone on hand to ask about any pop-ups rather than clicking and hoping for the best. That’s why we have a team of experts on hand to make sure that your systems are secure. Whether you think you need a refresher course in security, or just want to chat through your concerns, we’re happy to help. The hackers will never stop trying, so if you’re not sure about anything, give us a call.

Why technology doesn’t detract from education

We recently read an inspiring article about the work of the Turing Trust, set up to honour the incomparable Alan Turing by providing computers and IT training to over 100 schools in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. The work they are doing in refurbishing PCs no longer needed by schools and businesses, as well as developing technology which supports these communities is very impressive and shows the difference that digital inclusion can make to a child’s education.

In the UK, we can take our technology for granted. The challenge for parents is often how to limit time on the internet or playing on an iPad, and this leads to a perception that technology can get in the way of education. This doesn’t have to be the case. As the work of the Turing Trust shows, computers can present educational opportunities to children and make the learning process more inclusive and engaging. When we work with schools on providing tools such as tablets for the classroom, we also provide advice on the best software and applications which support the national curriculum.

As well as providing new ways to teach traditional subjects such as literacy and maths, it’s important for children to understand and be comfortable with the latest technology as these will be essential skills in later life. Most careers require a level of IT literacy and more and more aspects of our lives, from the weekly shop and last-minute holidays to banking and paying for a parking space, are facilitated by technology. Also, it’s worth remembering that computers connect the whole world, and allows children to view images and footage from incredible sights across the globe, including images from space during Tim Peake’s recent mission or perhaps linking to a class in Ghana.

Technology is, of course, just one of the tools in a teacher’s extensive toolbox. The work of the Turing Trust underlines how vital this tool can be, and how much of an impact technology can have when put to good use. We work with schools on everything from ensuring that their network and broadband is secure and reliable to providing the latest hardware for classrooms. Technology doesn’t have to distract from education; if it’s implemented correctly as part of a clear strategy then it can be a tool that provides new possibilities for schools and pupils alike.

When it comes to IT, you never stop learning

Plans are well under way for the next JSPC roadshow on 24th November and with so many IT issues underpinning key news stories and organisational challenges, we’re expecting it to be a busy one. We’re focusing on the issues of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and safeguarding. These are two of the hottest topics in IT and, together with the recent spate of cyber attacks on organisations of all sizes, make up some of the key concerns of our clients.

The three issues are interlinked. Good data protection practices form the foundation for cyber security and an awareness of safeguarding techniques and precautions are invaluable for ensuring that both children and sensitive data about them is maintained properly. Used correctly, the right information can help to protect children and allow information to be shared between professionals but it needs to be secure and well managed to be of value. Many people are focused on the new rules for the GDPR, but in areas such as safeguarding and cyber attacks, it is not so much government rulings but an evolving threat that needs to be addressed. This is why it is important to stay up to date; legislation, technology and the environment are changing all the time and it can be hard to keep up. That’s why we created this interactive event, with plenty of time for question and answer sessions and hands-on demonstrations.

We’re also lining up some brilliant guest speakers and gathering information to present some helpful case studies which may help you apply some of the latest developments in hardware, wireless and single-server solutions to your organisation. We appreciate that you’re taking time out of your work day and so we’re intent on making it great value – and given the expertise on show, we’re looking forward to learning something new ourselves. The only way to keep up in the world of IT is to always keep learning. We look forward to seeing you in November.

Is your school ready for the new General Data Protection Regulation?

Next year, the current Data Protection Act (DPA) will be replaced by new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The changes take effect on 25th May 2018 and at this point there will be an even greater emphasis placed on data protection that will change the way information is managed within your school.

The tighter regulations will place additional responsibility on schools to safeguard the information they hold. The rules are related to what information is stored, and how it is stored, similar to the original DPA although the new rules are more stringent. Depending on your current infrastructure, the changes may require investment in software but it may be possible to achieve compliance without a major outlay.

We recommend a full information audit which will help you understand what actions you need to take to ensure that you don’t breach the rules. Along with providing some stricter guidelines, the GDPR also carries some significant penalties for any organisation that breaches the new rules so it’s worth making sure you meet the requirements. You may find that you’re already operating within the guidelines, or some minor adjustments can bring the school in line.

However, that initial audit goes, it’s worth knowing what you need to do before you’re at the point of incurring penalties. We can help you look at your current practices, policies and software and help you develop a plan of action – and if required, a budget for technical investment – to ensure that when the GDPR comes into force in May next year, your school will already be meeting the new standards.

Who is responsible for e-safety?

Can IT companies protect children?

We’ve always taken e-safety very seriously. We offer schools sophisticated content filtering systems which provide control over what can be seen online and can tailor this to suit classes of different ages. Of course, it’s not always easy to know in advance what you want to filter out and the threats online keep evolving. No filter can be 100% effective because new sites are popping up all the time. That is why we also offer a content monitoring system that detects inappropriate content being viewed and flags it up for teachers to take any required action. These systems are effective tools to protect children online, but they are not the only thing in the e-safety toolbox.

Can teachers help children to protect themselves?

Education plays a significant role in the success of e-safety programmes. This means educating children about what actions they can take in to stay safe online, but also reinforcing the idea that the online landscape changes rapidly. It is not effective to simply test children once on issues of e-safety and assume that they’re sticking to the rules. Some will forget, others will be looking for ways around the safety checks and meanwhile new threats will be evolving online. Education in this sense means keeping the conversation open about issues such as cyber-bullying and incorporating regular updates and discussions on the topic throughout the year.

How can parents get involved in e-safety?

Education doesn’t stop with the pupils; teachers and parents also have a role to play in helping children stay safe online. We also offer a range of training courses online and in schools with our partners Safety Net for teachers and parents as well as students, which help to inform them of the possible threats and behaviours to look out for. This is important because although content filtering and monitoring systems are very effective, it’s unlikely that children are encountering similarly sophisticated protections at home. That’s why it’s as important to know how to work with children on e-safety, and the right training can help parents and teachers spot signs that a child may be encountering something upsetting online.

So, who IS responsible for e-safety?

IT companies can offer tools to protect children from online threats but that’s only part of the story. Teachers, parents and the children themselves all have a role to play and training and ongoing education ensure this takes place. The more knowledge they have, the easier it is to exercise a measure of judgement on the issue -you may want to supervise very young children online, but with teenagers you can provide a measure of independence but make sure you understand, for example, the signs of potential cyber-bullying and what can be done to combat it. In both cases, the technology may play a vital role in protecting children and young people online but often education is the most powerful layer of protection.