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IT staff come out of the closet into the world of wi fi

SCHOOL IT technicians are used to emerging from pokey workshops in converted cupboards to tinker with broken printers. But they now fear they may lose even this meagre space as ICT rooms are left out of plans for new schools altogether.

The Building Schools for the Future programme advises schools to ditch traditional computer suites in favour of wireless technology, laptops and portable tablet PCs.

Zbysiu Rodak, a technician at a Manchester secondary, predicts in-house technicians will disappear entirely. In future, an anonymous central pool could serve a large number of schools.

At the Djanogly Academy in Nottingham, one of the first schools to abolish IT suites, technicians have been given an underground "den" to work from. A team of six technicians are constantly on the move maintaining around 1,300 desktop, laptop and tablet PCs.

A visitor to the school commented: "I didn't like the way the techies were kept in two dark, windowless rooms below ground, almost as an afterthought."

But Sanjesh Sharma, assistant principal in charge of ICT at Djanogly, said the basement space had been planned from the start. "It's much better than the room they have under the building in The IT Crowd" (the Channel 4 sitcom), he said. "It's air-conditioned, staff are near the servers and the equipment is safe from theft."

Another technician said he had to fight "tooth and nail" for adequate space for staff and computer suites as his BSF pathfinder school was being designed.

Russell Dyas, a network manager at a secondary school in Leicestershire, said the needs of IT staff were usually considered at the end of the design stages. "Space for support staff should be considered at the beginning along with the basics such as electrics and plumbing," he said.

Steve Moss, strategic director of ICT at Partnerships for Schools, which oversees BSF, said the move away from computer suites was inevitable if schools wanted to embed technology into all areas of the curriculum. "We have to ask if we are designing schools where the facilities are for the students or to make the lives of technicians easier."

He said the organisation was consulting technicians' representatives to ensure their voices were heard.

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