Using ICT to reduce school operating costs
Finding ways to cut costs without negatively impacting teaching is an issue pertinent to all education providers across the UK. In addition, schools have an ambition to integrate ICT throughout learning, but using ICT to its best effect in the classroom is not without challenge.
Schools can invest in the latest ICT kit (for example iPads and Virtual Reality) but without the right support to embed these into the curriculum, the equipment and investment is likely to be underutilised.
Putting the right technology in place to support learning, rather than making learning work around technology, will enable schools to achieve a higher level of ICT delivery and support while keeping costs down.
Moving to the cloud
By moving to the cloud and being ‘server-free’ schools can save money, increase scalability and improve collaboration between teachers, students and office staff. Google’s G Suite for Education and Microsoft’s Office 365 are both free and have similar feature sets which are regularly updated. Both can be easily integrated with existing on-site technology and schools won’t need to purchase hardware to host an Exchange server. These platforms can also replace expensive Virtual Learning Environments. Cloud packages tend to be purchased via annual subscription rather than a large capital spend every 3-5 years. This gives schools greater visibility of ICT spend each year, without the worry of peaks in capital expenditure.
ICT support across MATs
The recent report from the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA) on the procurement landscape for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) shows that 51% of MATs have centralised the procurement of ICT equipment and services; the second most commonly centralised service after utilities. Part of the reason for this is that ICT represents a large proportion of a MAT’s expenditure but used effectively technology can save MATs money and deliver improved teaching and learning. MATs are in a unique position to use economies of scale, centralised services and procurement strategies to negotiate the best value for money services to meet their needs.
An annual IT security review by an outside source is advisable. There has been a great deal of media coverage on the increase in GDPR fines in education, yet according to a survey by Probrand.co.uk, the majority of the education sector failed to wipe the data from decommissioned IT equipment in the two months following the instruction of GDPR.
Schools hold personal and often sensitive information which means they may be a potential target for ransomware and malware attacks. ICT security audits are important to ensure correct procedures are in place to avoid data leaks and fines.
Choosing the right ICT provider
There are many ways in which schools and MATs can analyse ICT costs to identify potential savings. Start by conducting an internal IT audit to see all ICT touchpoints – from the office environments through to classrooms – and talk to staff to find out what works well. When researching IT providers, draw up a comparison showing what each company can offer and use this to work out which provider offers the best value for the specific requirements.