back to article Victorian government teacher-laptop scheme illegal, says judge

Teacher laptop purchase schemes in several states are under question, after a Federal Court ruling that a Victorian programme is illegal. Victorian teachers were expected to provide their own laptops, and were required to lease the machines from the Department of Education, at rates between AU$4 and $17 per fortnight, paid by …

  1. Khaptain Silver badge
    Coat

    I am not amused

    I didn't realise that they had computers in Victorian times....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: I am not amused

      You would not believe how slowly Windows 10 runs on a Babbage engine!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am not amused

      .... but HP seemed to have seen a market opportunity in slates ... I assume they also supply chalk.

      1. Mike Lewis

        Re: I am not amused

        The slates are cheap. The chalk costs a fortune.

  2. LaeMing Silver badge
    Linux

    Apple tax

    To be fair, that additonal money might be to cover the extra support that Macs need in a locally managed environment. Macs work great as stand-alone computers, but the moment you try to put a centralised management system between them and Apple HQ, they are a whole world of pain and torment for users and administrators alike!

    1. Maventi

      Re: Apple tax

      @LaeMing

      It would seem that way at a glance, but my experience with schools shows that this often isn't the case. I've spent far less time fixing Macs than Windows PCs in dealing with schools, to the point that many schools now refuse to support Windows due to the extra work it creates. Not my decision but theirs.

      This is with the Macs having no centralised control and simply providing a Time Machine service for those staff using Macs to use. And when I say difference, we are literally talking weekly callouts for Windows versus one or two a year for the Macs.

      Now for the caveats. I haven't worked with Windows 10 so can't comment there, and this is in smaller schools without dedicated IT staff so Windows may be a bit easier in bigger institutions if there are some dedicated sysadmins in command.

      However I just wanted to point out that many tech folks get pretty obsessed with being overly controlling of their endpoints, when often a combination of good equipment, a little bit of trust and a willing to try alternatives can really go a long way.

      1. Fluffy Bunny
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Apple tax

        "...a little bit of trust and a willing to try alternatives..."

        We are in control. We will tell you what is good for you.

        Trust us...

        Trust us...

        Trust....

    2. spy
      FAIL

      Re: Apple tax

      Support is provided via the school through its standard IT operations budget. The additional money goes to the lease company, who only provides hardware and an insurance package. This has nothing to do with how easy or hard macs are to use in a windows environment and everything to do with opportunistic money making. The program always smacked of an exploitation scheme.

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Apple tax

        "The additional money goes to the lease company, who only provides hardware and an insurance package."

        Maybe the insurance rate for Macs is huge? Do they have a higher theft rate?

  3. Stratman

    "I owe my soul to the company store"

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      So the old laptops weighed in at Sixteen Tons?

  4. MrDamage

    I may be missing something here...

    The Vic govt implemented a BYOD regime, then decided that the teachers couldn't actually use their own devices, but instead had to pay for the privilege of bringing a govt supplied device in?

    Hubert Farnsworth summed it best.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    State looks under lounge

    How do you look under a lounge? Dig a hole under your house?

    1. treboR

      Re: State looks under lounge

      As an Brit living in Aus, who is finally getting fluent in the local language, allow me to explain:

      Lounge is Aussie for sofa.

  6. Winkypop Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Punishment?

    10,000 lines + detention.

    "I must never try to hoodwink Teacher, I am but a mere Government official and I am not even worthy of Sir's / Madam's contempt"

  7. dan1980

    The rule is simple: if your job requires you to use some specific piece of equipment then your employer supplies it.

    1. GeekiestWoman
      Linux

      GeekiestWoman

      Actually, it is not necessarily true that an employer is responsible for an employee's tools. Back in the early 60s I worked as a programmer during the day and a graphic artist at night (yes, workaholic, still am).

      I didn't have to supply ,my own computer during the day because they were all mainframes; but I did have to supply my own rapidograph pen, t-square, triangle and slide ruler for the night job. Actually it wasn't a rapidograph back then, but a pre-rapidograph which was a 'pen' that hmmm ... had two 'arms' and a knob. You'd turn the knob to bring the two arms closer or further apart from each other at their 'points', then you'd dip the tool into a bottle of ink and using the t-square with or without the different angled triangles you'd draw a line.... it was complicated.

      Anyway, today you can be forced by an employer to use their equipment which they CAN force you to pay to use, I GUESS they can in Australia. But they'd never get away with that in the USA, where employers give benefits BECAUSE THE MARKETPLACE OF POTENTIAL EMPLOYEES DEMANDS IT. There is no law in the USA that says an employer has to give an employee ANY vacation time (except for federally mandated holidays). Employees give vacation days or what they now call 'personal time off' days because no one but 3rd-world h1bs would work for the employers if they did NOT get decent numbers of PTO days. Get it?

      1. Neil of Qld

        Re: GeekiestWoman

        So in the US you get four weeks paid holidays per year? As we do in Australia

    2. Phil Kingston Silver badge

      One of my previous contracts got a bit sneaky with requiring me to provide a mobile - they had a clause in there requiring me to provide an "operational mobile phone service" for them to contact me, at my expense. Luckily, they only went as far as requiring that it be available office hours.

      A burner SIM, turned off/on at the appropriate times, kept us both happy. Until they needed something out of hours.

  8. frank ly Silver badge

    Will the teachers get refunds?

    It seems reasonable that they should.

    1. Arachnoid

      Re: Will the teachers get refunds?

      Yes less a large admin fee and a fine for any damage to the said laptops then install large support fee for new BYOD devices

      1. dan1980

        Re: Will the teachers get refunds?

        @ Arachnoid

        While I appreciate what you are saying and understand that you are (likely) disapproving of what you suggest may happen, it does prompt the question of how a 'support fee' for personal, BYOD laptops would fit.

        As per my above comment, if you are required to have a certain, specific piece of equipment to do your job then that should be provided. Teachers need computers to do their jobs these days. And I don't just mean that they need them to work with 'interactive classrooms of the future' or any such buzzword laden ideas; I mean just in the basic, day-to-day dispensation of their duties.

        There is more to teaching than just standing in front of a class talking to students and sending them to the principal when they are little twerps. Even if you wrote up all your lesson plans with a pen and paper and submitted written copies of exam questions to the administrative staff to typeset and print out, you still have to interact with the internal systems which, like those of almost every other modern organisation of more than a handful of people, are overwhelmingly electronic.

        That means that to plan periods, you have to use the computer-based systems; and to record student attendance, you have to use the computer-based systems; and to submit student grades and generate reports, you have to use the computer-based systems; and to receive and respond to important announcements and instructions and policies, you have to use the computer-based systems; and to request leave and arrange cover for classes, you have to @ Arachnoid

        While I appreciate what you are saying and understand that you are (likely) disapproving of what you suggest may happen, it does prompt the question of how a 'support fee' for personal, BYOD laptops would fit.

        As per my above comment, if you are required to have a certain, specific piece of equipment to do your job then that should be provided. Teachers need computers to do their jobs these days. And I don't just mean that they need them to work with 'interactive classrooms of the future' or any such buzzword laden ideas; I mean just in the basic, day-to-day dispensation of their duties.

        There is more to teaching than just standing in front of a class talking to students and sending them to the principal when they are little twerps. Even if you wrote up all your lesson plans with a pen and paper and submitted written copies of exam questions to the administrative staff to typeset and print out, you still have to interact with the internal systems which, like those of almost every other modern organisation of more than a handful of people, are overwhelmingly electronic.

        That means that to plan periods, you have to use the computer-based systems; and to record student attendance, you have to use the computer-based systems; and to submit student grades and generate reports, you have to use the computer-based systems; and to receive and respond to important announcements and instructions and policies, you have to use the computer-based systems.

        And, while these functions are not directly involved in teaching, they are essential requirements of a teacher's employment and failure to perform these tasks will lead to reprimand and, ultimately, dismissal.

        Thus a teacher needs the use of a computer simply to accomplish the mandatory tasks of the role and so it is entirely the responsibility of the employer to provide the employee with those resources necessary - a computer.

        And so, in that framework and that framework only, can a charge for BYOD support be even entertained - though still not justified by that alone. The idea of charging extra is saying that this is a privilege that the employees are being offered, but the most important part is that the exercise of this privilege must be entirely optional - i.e. the employees (teachers) should not need to supply there own laptop - in whatever way.

        Making teachers' lives easier is an investment in education as a whole; give them the tools they need to do their jobs. End of story.

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Will the teachers get refunds?

          "That means that to plan periods, you have to use the computer-based systems; "

          I didn't realize periods needed planning, I thought nature had been taking care of that?

  9. Nick Davey

    Not a surprise

    My wife is a teacher here in Blighty. She has a 6+ year old Windows XP machine with outdated and expired anti-virus and a battery that lasts about 5 minutes. It's slow (understandably) and she is paranoid about me doing anything with it to try to make it at least mostly usable. She can't take her own device (as I've got enough laptops to furnish her with at least a Win 7 replacement) and there's no sign of her getting a piece of kit fit for purpose. Doesn't help that she won't rock the boat and complain about the age/usability of the machine either. OK she's not renting it from the state but people over here are working with sub-par kit too.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Not a surprise

      Open up the laptop, unplug a few fans, seal it back up, viola new laptop (would cost them more to send it out for repair then to buy a new one).

  10. JJKing Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Victoria, Australia Teacher Laptops

    First, did the numpty who scrawled (must have because it was certainly NOT written) this article actually do ANY research on the Teacher Laptop program? Here let me answer that for you......NO YOU DIDN'T. As for your wife's XP machine in Blighty, the devices here are never more than 4 years old (ok, maybe 4.5 years for any ST reading this) and each machine is entitled to a replacement battery during the warranty period.

    Second, the laptops were NOT compulsory and voluntary choice by the teachers. If they wanted one they could chose a Windows device or if they wanted something shiny (actually said to me by a Principal when I asked why they were changing from Windows to a Mac) an Apple Mac and then whine about the price difference. I have no idea where you get the $899 price for the Mac because it sure as shit wasn't the price that was available here in Australia. Also, the Lenovo price was off you a few hundred $$$$s as well. And no, NO manufacturer bloatware installed because the Education Department tech guys built their own image with appropriate software for deployment.

    The warranty on the Windows type devices was excellent. You could run over the damn thing and it would be replaced under warranty. If the Mac had a coffee stain on it, the Apple tech would pack up their tools, say the warranty was void and hastily leave the building. True story, first hand account!

    There are some 65,000 teachers in Victoria Education. Now imagine they all decide they want to buy their own machines. Fine but I ain't touching it. If I do then Harvey Norman/Dick Smith or some other low level retailer will tell them the warranty is null and void then I get it in the neck from the most IT illiterate people in the Universe; teachers! Yes, teachers. "The Internet is not working" = "I can't access Facebook while I am supposed to be teaching my class".

    From a tech point of view the Teacher Laptop program was a work of genius. Us techs could do warranty work without any repercussions and if it got slammed with spyware, viruses etc, it was about a 30 minute reimage and was all working again. My problem were those who were too stupid to even purchase an external HDD to backup their "important" 3 or 4 year old photos that were so essential to their lives. This was even after I found cheap devices on sale and emailed to the staff on the school email DL. Of 110 teachers at one school, THREE purchased an external HDD.

    If these idiots were allowed to purchase their own devices then I would be swamped because their ChromeBook won't run (insert application other than Google Docs). In 6 years time they would be complaining Vista won't run anything and I would bet that some of the numpties would still be running Windows 98. I was asked to configure a new graduate teacher's laptop and get it running on the network. It was running Windows 8, an i3 and 4GB RAM so in all fairness a reasonable device except it would bend when picked up. (Nice job HP) They had been assured by the salesman that it was the top of the range machine (yes, top of the bottom most range) but unfortunately it was running Windows 8 HOME. Instead of being able to GPO the configurations I had to do them all manually. Bit annoying when I had on average 2.7 minutes per machine per day and that did not include any Servers. YMMV but that was mine. Also, I do NOT know your Administrator password and I cannot reset it because your clever tech kid/friend/neighbour may have encrypted your files to use that password and you haven't backed up your data have you.

    So well done Teacher's Union. If I am forced to work on any BYODs then they shall go to the bottom of the queue and fixed when I have time and ANY porn found on a device on school premises SHALL be reported to the Principal. Connect to the network and you shall, remember EduSTAR, and the scanning begins. No, not a bitter tech, just overworked.

    1. doctorjbeam

      Re: Victoria, Australia Teacher Laptops

      Give this man a medal. He says what we're all thinking.

  11. teachers_had_it_easy

    It will get worse now!

    As per the actual court transcripts the info mentioned here is not quite accurate...

    http://puteducation1st.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/VID-252-of-2013-2015-FCA-1196.pdf

    It was more expensive for Apple yes, but...

    Round 1, Cycle 5

    Lenovo ThinkPad L420 - Cost $684.00, they paid - $4/fn or a whopping $364.00 over 3/4 years for the entire lease...

    Apple MacBook- Cost $1,149.00, they paid - $11.50/fn which was out of pocket $1,046.50.

    - Not $799 and $899 respectively like you claim.

    But you will find that's more because it's Apple and apple don't budge with their prices, don't negotiate so are not a viable brand of NTTP long term. The department also had no obligation to provide Apple machines at all, it was an OPTION for staff to make their own informed grown-up decision about, it they stupidly chose to pay 3 times the cost for an Apple that was their own doing. Not the dept.

    End of the day though, teachers never had to have an Apple, they could have had a Lenovo/Acer and if a school didn't allow that it would be the up to the union to take on the school forcing teacher in question not the department as a whole for providing what in the scheme of things was a sweet deal!

    I would argue any tech working in the education system would have more of a 'work requirement' to have a notebook provided for free. But I doubt many have that. I like the rest had to pay the whole price for our own, usually up front too!

    Also where is the policy for this statement?

    "The scam scheme was protected by a Department of Education policy that forbade teachers from bringing their own machines."

    I honestly never saw anything like this, and any school I worked at has always allowed teachers to bring their own machine if they preferred - as long as it was up to scratch (not some ancient windows xp/vista thing).

    Teachers (more so the Union) will find out the hard way 'Don't bite the hand that feeds you!'

    Because 95% of the 150+ teacher laptops I worked on over the years were used primary for home use and secondary for school/work use. Most filled with downloads, porn, viruses, gigs and gigs of home photos, music, illegally downloaded movies and the such...

    So, the department might have to provide them a machine for work.. But no where does it say it has to be for personal home use as well... Which is why most teachers will end up opting for BYOD so they only have 1 device, which in turn will be a technical nightmare and bring the whole network and system to its knees because 1600 sites with 40,000 staff will not cope with a BYOD system, and the department won't provide home/private use machines any more now...

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