John Kyrle No Access to Computers for Pupils February 2020

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On 24th February JKHS suffered another catastropic loss of access to computers and files for all pupils. With disruption continuing over two weeks and counting, John Kyrle have not acknowledged or apologised to parents for the extent of this.

Please note, this is the second major disruption over 7 weeks. With this and the last disruption both resulting in about 2 weeks of downtime each, it means 4 weeks out of 7 have been disrupted at JKHS, with no access to computers. To read about the previous Security Breach and massive data loss of January 2020, click here

With the previous massive data loss and security breach dating back only to 13th January, and the headteacher acknowledging that systems will be looked at and revised, a second IT disruption has seen pupils once again unable to use school computers or to access their files.

As exams close in, parents are expressing serious concerns over John Kyrle's apparent lack of openness, leaving them deeply concerned over when the IT problems will be resolved. Parents report their children say their lessons have been disrupted, that staff who also don't have access to systems are even resorting to bringing in their own laptops into school to try keep lessons on track.

In the modern world, many subjects now rely heavily on the computer systems. Parents of children who have lost all their coursework in the previous massive IT disruption are expressing their worries over why John Kyrle has not addressed their computer systems since January, and why the systems can remain so vulnerable. One parent commented "either they have not sorted the problems out or they are the unluckiest business in the world. It's really worrying with exams not far away now".

This IT problem is reputedly down to a virus. It has resulted in no access to files, and no access to computers. It was first reported on Monday 24th February. As of the end of the following week (6th March), with two whole school weeks having passed and counting, parents report their children have no access to their files, the same is said by pupils.

David Boyd, 'Operational Headteacher', mentioned the IT problems in an email to parents as reported by the Ross Gazette. His comments don't seem to match, in whole or in part, to what parents report, he said "No data has been lost in this outage - staff and students have full access to their files".

As we go into a 3rd week, parents are no longer reporting pupils having no access to files or to use computers. As such, it appears the disrupted 2 full school weeks with no access to files for all the parents and pupils we have spoken to.

ParentPay affected too

Parents report issues with ParentPay, since this IT problem started. ParentPay, a system by which amongst other things, creates a cashless society at John Kyrle High School by offering a method of paying for food at the canteen by fingerprint, is disrupted.

Parents report their children feeling humiliated or embarrassed when they go to pay for food at the canteen and are told they don't have any funds. The parents are logging in from home to ParentPay's website where they can top-up and view their child's balance only to see that it says they do have funds.

It seems there is a synchronisation issue down to John Kyrle's systems, that has happened since the disruption. It is reputed to be causing transactions or 'debits' from funds at the canteen not updating in the ParentPay cloud.

At this time, it is confirmed there is NO problem with ParentPay on a national level, with their services running as normal.

Staff have said the problems are directly related to the virus that has caused the computer systems disruption.

On Tuesday 10th March (a day over two weeks from all computer systems being down due to a virus), the school wrote the following email to all parents via ParentPay:

Dear Parent & Carers,

We are pleased to announce that the link between the tills and ParentPay is now repaired. All transactions since the 24th February have now have been updated.

You may see items appearing on days that your child did not buy them, this is because we have manually entered transactions and unfortunately we are not able to back date charges from the previous week.

Money can be topped up either on ParentPay or directly at the tills.

Please feel free to contact me direct if you have any queries.We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and continued support.

...firstly, note they say the problem is resolved now. Secondly, note the reference to them updating "all transactions since the 24th February", which is the day the virus took out school systems.

When the previous January IT security breach and massive data loss happened, Nigel Griffiths, the Headteacher, wrote to all parents saying "we are currently commissioning the local authority to review our systems" and reference that "we are tendering to replace our current external network management company from September", and "the new operating system we commission will have extra layers of security. This includes two-factor authentication. Given our experiences of current provision, we will address all issues of backup, including on-site and off-site storage, as well as duplicating key servers in the cloud, ready to take over should an on-site one fail".

It seems even though the scale of the data loss in January was disastrous, John Kyrle has continued to run vulnerable systems, that have been brought down this time by a virus. It is reported the school have been updating out-of-date operating systems to full supported Windows 10. It is unclear what the school has done, if anything, about appropriately updating its server infrastructure.

Security patches and updates for operating systems are released continually by Microsoft for their currently supported OSes. Anti-virus updates should be constantly updated. These security updates to desktop OSes along with continually updated server based anti-virus and a properly deployed firewall are all fundamental elements of good practice for IT deployments in Desktop/Server environments.

Consulting IT specialists on basics, consensus seems to be that it should not take a large scale IT failure, let alone two, to draw attention to the need to address systems in a reactive fashion. The school should proactively make sure they are fit for purpose, especially when the work held on them is valuable (in man hours to produce) and may contain personally identifiable data that is regulated by Data Protection Law and GDPR.