Making the most out of your schools ICT budget
How schools can renew technology, whilst saving up to 20% on current ICT spend.
Making the most out of your schools ICT budget involves 3 key factors.
Having worked closely with schools of varying sizes across a number of regions, we have seen significant changes in the use of technology in education over time. First came the introduction of the ICT suite, then the use of interactive technology, the mobile laptop suite, the rise and fall of iPads, and more recently, cloud technology. But during this period, there has also been changes in teaching styles and leadership and, of course, academisation. Combined, these changes have led us to where we are today – highly dependent on technology in education.
We often hear the argument that a teacher should never be reliant on technology to deliver a lesson, but educators are likely to agree that using technology correctly and efficiently can without a doubt enhance a lesson. Used correctly, technology can also be used by school administration and finance departments to achieve huge savings on the most precious thing in education – time.
So, despite the acknowledgement that technology offers huge benefits, why do educators, SLT and business leaders, throughout any discussion about technology, so often mention the dreaded ‘budget’? Well, budgets in most scenarios have not increased in line with the costs of running a school, and because of this, ICT equipment in place is often between three and five years old. But because technology develops so fast, using equipment more than three years old can become problematic. Furthermore, educators and business leaders using aged technology can easily become quickly disengaged from the question of technology.
So as technologists, how do we ensure technology does not become a hindrance to educators? Every school has certain basic technological requirements: servers, end-user devices (laptops, PCs or tablets), software (licensing, security and backup), web filtering and reporting, training, front-of-class technology, networking infrastructure and ICT support. As an example, the average primary school in the UK has 280 pupils, with 50 technological devices available for both staff and pupils – an average ratio of five pupils to each end-user device. For such a school to meet these basic requirements, prior to any investment into network infrastructure or front-of-class technology, it will need to spend circa £70,000 over a five-year period, or £14,000 per annum. In our experience, £14,000 is usually the absolute maximum budget of this size school for ICT. For schools to break out of this five-year cycle in the traditional way, they would need to increase their annual ICT budgets by 60%, which is impossible for most.
Breaking out of the cycle whilst saving money - the three key factors:
- Budgets/Review Spend: This also includes reviewing overall ICT spend, it is definitely worth reviewing your five-year spend, including on servers, end-user devices (laptops, PCs or tablets), software (licensing, security and backup), web filtering and reporting, training, front-of-class technology, networking infrastructure, ICT support, printing and consumables, as well as software subscriptions, for example in literacy and numeracy, which might not necessarily fall under ICT. This analysis can often uncover some unrealised spend, but fundamentally, it confirms the actual budget for your school, whatever its size.
- Cloud technology: Maybe this sounds an odd point – the way to gain more benefits from technology is to use more technology? However, cloud technology is something special. In April 2019, the DfE released a whitepaper on ‘moving schools to the cloud’. Although somewhat vague on delivery and noting that cloud technology can pose some risks if it is only embraced piecemeal, it reached a positive conclusion – but only when key factor number 3 is also taken into account.
- Cloud ICT strategy, vision and partners: Having a good strategy and a knowledgeable ICT partner or lead are possibly the most important points. Using cloud technology out of the box without a plan can often have a negative effect on budgets and ensure a quick route to user disengagement. Traditional ‘lift and shift’ strategies cannot be employed to implement cloud computing – that is, just taking existing bad habits and high spend and reapplying them. The most common example may be the deployment of Chromebooks without cloud integration across the whole school, or simply moving files to OneDrive or Google Drive to provide a short-term fix. Unfortunately, such short-term fixes can provide a long-term challenge. A good, solid cloud strategy involves planning ahead for all aspects of technology – servers, devices, printers, teaching software and training to name a few. Planning ahead ensures the smoothest possible transition and the best route to user engagement.
Without going into the benefits of cloud technology in particular, as this was covered in a previous post, what benefits do we see in respect of budget and technology when these three key factors are taken into account?
- On average, a school can see savings of up to 20% on technology spend when utilising cloud technology.
Still not convinced?
- The average age of technology moves from three to five, to one to three years.
- With cloud computing, schools can not only reduce current spend but increase their device-to-pupil ratio.
The benefits are proven to outweigh the disadvantages.
At PrimaryTec, we create bespoke cloud ICT strategies on a daily basis. Want some help on creating yours? Click below for your free cloud-readiness audit.