The HICS network currently provides internet and connectivity services to over 520 schools and academies in Hertfordshire. The service is strategically managed by HfL and the ICT in Schools Partnership Working Group, which is made up of representatives from the headteacher and governor communities. The service has enabled all schools in Hertfordshire to receive an excellent connectivity service, wherever they are situated, whilst also ensuring that they get a value for money, educational service providing secure links in and between schools and where appropriate, the LA.
HICS is a tailored education service, led by educational staff. This means that we are able to proactively manage safeguarding concerns for schools, reflecting not only OfSTED requirements but also changes to national and international internet practice. Our filtering options enable schools to take varying levels of control, based on their own staffing and expertise, whilst also ensuring that pupils are protected from emerging online dangers.
In order to ensure that we are able to continue to provide the very best level of service, maximising the impact of aggregated purchase and new technological developments, HICS has recently reproduced the service. This means that our supplier is due to change. This should provide service advantages to our evolving school community, whilst protecting the benefits of the HICS network that has existed in Hertfordshire for the last 8 years.
Q What is the key change to the HICS service?
A HfL’s contract with the current provider runs out on September 30th 2017. We have a new supplier contract from October 1st 2017 which will enable us to offer you an improved level of service. From a customer facing perspective, you will continue to receive a full wrap around service from HfL, with the same contact details and level of service.
By carrying out a full tendering process, HfL have been able to negotiate a better price and improved service for schools, which maximises the impact of technological changes for schools. We have engaged school headteachers and governors throughout the process, ensuring that the new service meets all requirements in terms of OfSTED and safeguarding, as well as ensuring that schools and academies do not have to carry out their own tendering processes.
Q What happens if I decide I want to resubscribe to HICS after this date?
A We will never turn away a school/academy, although you will run the risk of having a period of time without a broadband service.
Q What happens if we decide we do not want to continue to subscribe to HICS?
A Of course, there is no compulsion to resubscribe to the HICS network. However, we believe we have negotiated the best price for the level of service a school needs. We would therefore urge you to ensure that any new service provides the full education cover and filtering that your school needs, so please do check that you have a like for like cost comparison. You will need to have the new provision live by October 1st 2017 as your current provision will cease at midnight on 30th September 2017.
Q How long will the school/academy have to subscribe to HICS for?
A In order to negotiate a good financial deal for schools, we have had to offer a longer period of delivery with our supplier. Therefore we will be asking schools to confirm their subscription for three years. Of course, this also means that schools are able to budget ahead for three years, and protect themselves from price rises throughout this period.
Q How have HfL decided on who the broadband provider will be?
A In 2016, HfL commenced a full OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union)procurement to identify who the contact will be awarded to, this included researching the market and speaking to schools/academies for their feedback through various means such as the partnership working group. This was to ensure best value and improved functionality to schools/academies.
Q Will the service improve and if so, how?
A We have chosen a proven provider that specialises in delivering broadband services to education and their existing core network has availability of 99.99%. As such, the new HICS service will deliver a range of improvements and benefits to your school:
A proven web filtering service – Going beyond the latest DfE and Ofsted guidance and duties for online safety
Improved performance and results – A ‘market leading’ SLA guaranteeing reliable connectivity for your staff. The service will be designed and implemented to provide 99.99% availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Greater security and safeguarding – Improved measures to ensure business continuity and protection against the latest online threats, like Malware and DDoS attacks
More flexibility and choice – The opportunity, as the need for bandwidth increases, to scale up your service. Also, the option to take greater control of a wider range of service elements, e.g. your filter policies, DNS settings and firewall configuration
Greater confidence – More feedback for your Designated Safeguarding Leads, who will receive scheduled reports to show when attempts have been made to access inappropriate online content
Q How much will the service cost?
A The costs will be in line with what you are currently paying, should similar numbers of schools/academies commit to HICS in line with what we currently have. We expect discounts in the second and third year if the current commitment is the same.
Q I am a Secondary School/Academy Network Manager and I would like further technical information, how do I get this?
A Further communications will follow about times and dates of a Q&A session that HfL will be hosting alongside the new provider. If you are interested in attending, please contact Kevin Crawley (firstname.lastname@example.org). The new provider will also be holding free training sessions on certain services such as the filtering that you can attend in due course.
Q I work in a primary school/academy and I would like my third party IT support engineer to familiarise themselves with the new service prior to launch. Is this possible?
A If there is a demand HfL will be happy to host an event and invite primary schools support engineers in to discuss the new service; this will be attended by HfL and the new provider. This will be organised closer to migration, allowing the knowledge learnt to remain current and up-to-date.
Q How will HfL manage this contract on our behalf?
A HICS is, and continues to be, steered and overseen by the ICT PWG – which is made up of heads and governors. The service will be underpinned by a market leading SLA which HfL will manage on behalf of subscribers. All service impacting credits will be refunded to your HfL account. We will be your one stop shop and the existing HfL support teams will remain in place. Regular Network Manager forums will take place allowing school representatives to ask questions direct to HfL, as well as the broadband provider.
Q Will it continue to be an educationally driven service?
A Yes, it will. The new service will proactively respond to safeguarding/OFSTED concerns, changes in Government legislation etc.
Q I am a rural school/academy struggling on my existing bandwidth. Will I be able to receive an acceptable level of service, at an affordable cost?
A Absolutely. One of the key benefits of our central contract is that we are able to use our purchasing power to drive best value for all of our schools, and ensure all schools receive an excellent level of connectivity.
Q If I leave HICS, will I be able to access HCC applications such as SOLERO and SEAM?
A HCC manage these connections. HfL can, as the largest supplier of internet services in Hertfordshire, negotiate these centrally rather than individually as part of its wrap around service. HfL is not able to negotiate on behalf of other internet providers. If a school was not part of the HICS provision, these interfaces would need to be managed directly by the new supplier and HCC; please contact the technology team at HCC on email@example.com . Clearly, any changes to HCC interfaces are managed by HICS in a proactive manner. Alternative suppliers would manage these directly.
Q What is the expected timeline?
A Further communications, along with timelines and costs will follow shortly..