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WA Department of Education progressively updating ICT environment

by Sam Murphy •
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Western Australia’s Department of Education (DoE) is currently in the midst of upgrading its ICT environment and has a number of ICT projects underway, with more in the pipeline. A redesign of DoE’s behavioural management systems might also be on the cards, following  the Western Australian Office of the Auditor-General’s (OAG) recommendation that by mid-2014 schools should create or improve web-access to behaviour management information for schools and teachers.

WA has one of the world’s biggest education departments with almost 800 schools and 270,000 students, according to DoE’s 2012-13 Annual Report.  This report also reveals the Department entered into 15 ICT contracts with a total contract value of $46 million. The largest contract of these was with ASG Group for Oracle Licenses and Annual Support and Maintenance with a value of a $14.8 million.

In November 2013, DoE moved away from the Oracle Collaboration Suite for E-mail and transitioned to Microsoft 365 at a cost of $50,000 according to The Australian. The State-wide implementation of Microsoft 365 for Schools is a first for any jurisdiction in Australia.

DoE commenced an upgrade of its Standard Operating Environment (SOE) and as of 2012-13, had completed the upgrade in just over a third of its schools, according to the Annual Report. The upgrade includes moving schools from two separate networks and three servers to a single-server and single-network. The SOE upgrade was funded by the Federal Government’s National Secondary School Computer Fund established in 2007-08. WA was allocated $85.3 million over the forward estimates period.

The next SOE instalment (SOEv4.2) is to include BYOD capabilities, according to information Infrastructure and Telecommunications Director at DoE, Glenn Venn provided ITNews in December 2012. An FAQ on the DOE website currently notes that “Work is under way towards developing a 'bring your own device' model and it is hoped this may be implemented at some point in the future.”

DoE’s 2012-13 Annual Report also indicates that DoE signed a three year contract for the lease of 11,000 notebook computers complete with software. This follows a $15 million contract signed in 2010 that expired in 2013 for the provision of Netbook Devices, supplied by Acer and Toshiba.   Netbook Devices have been rendered obsolete by the rise of tablet devices.

Also in 2012-13, the Department implemented SMS software in 279 schools allowing emergency messages to be sent on behalf of the school.  

DoE is also highly active in the Online Teaching and Learning System (OTLS) area:

  • A $1 million contract was let in November 2013 with V-Tech Consultancy for the Provision of Business Analysis and Development Services - Professional Learning Information System
  • A $980,000 contract was let in October 2013 with Permeance for Enterprise Portal Software, Licenses and Associated Support and Maintenance to support the replacement of its Online Teaching and Learning System (OTLS); and
  • A refresh of its online learning design and development service panel led to the appointment of e3Learning, Futuretrain, Libearate eLearning, CADRE, Global Vision and OpenLearn to the updated panel.

The redesign of DoE’s behavioural management system might occur as a result of recent OAG scrutiny.  “The OAG has recommended improving information and data systems to give schools greater capacity to record positive and negative student behaviour information and data that can be collated and extracted for monitoring as needed at school, regional and system levels,” notes the Audit Report.

It continues, “We cannot conclude if behaviour has improved across the WA public school system because DoE lacks information about how its behaviour management approach is being implemented or if it is achieving intended outcomes. The behaviour related data it does have is imprecise and incomplete.”

Of particular concern to the OAG was the School Information System (SIS), which is used (among other things) to record positive and negative student behaviour data for analysis. According to the Audit, the system “is not internet-enabled and can only be accessed on school computers networked to the DoE system”.

The report indicates that in 2011, it was recommended that the SIS be updated to include a rating system for student behaviour and enable tracking of changing behaviour over time. None of these recommendations have been implemented to date.

Related Articles:

WA Education signs $44 million Microsoft deal

WA Education Department seeks phone systems installation for 800 schools

Local ICT suppliers maintain their grip on WA Government market

For more information, please contact the Editor (02) 9955 9896.

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  • Acer
  • Glenn Venn
  • Standard Operating Environment 4 (SOE4)
  • Toshiba
  • WA Audit Office
  • WA Department of Education