Finding ways to cut costs without negatively impacting teaching is an issue pertinent to all UK education providers. Schools have long sought to integrate ICT throughout pupils’ learning, but using ICT to its best effect in the classroom isn’t without challenge. It’s possible for schools to invest in the very latest kit, such as top of the range iPads and virtual reality devices – but without the right support for embedding these into the curriculum, investment of this type will likely 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.
Move to the cloud
Moving to the cloud and going ‘serverfree’ can save schools money and improve collaboration between teachers, students and office staff. Google’s G Suite for Education and Microsoft’s Office 365 are both free for school settings, offer a similar set of regularly updated features and can be easily integrated with existing on-site technology, meaning 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 subscriptions, rather than a large capital spend every three to five years. This gives schools greater visibility of ICT spend each year, without the worry of peaks in capital expenditure.
A recent report from the British Education Suppliers Association on the procurement landscape for MATs showed that 51% of MATs have centralised their procurement of ICT equipment and services – the second most commonly centralised service after utilities. MATs are in a unique position of being able to use economies of scale, centralised services and procurement strategies to negotiate the best value for money services to meet their needs and deliver improved teaching and learning.
Avoid the fines
There has been a great deal of media coverage on the increase in GDPR fines in education, yet according to a survey carried out by probrand.co.uk (see tinyurl. com/probrand-gdpr), 54% of educational organisations 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. Annual ICT security audits conducted by an outside source are therefore important for ensuring the correct procedures are in place to avoid data leaks and fines.
There are many other ways in which schools and MATs can analyse their ICT costs and identify potential savings. Start by conducting an internal IT audit of all ICT touchpoints, from the office environments to the classrooms, and talk to staff to find out what works well. When researching potential 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 your specific requirements.
Jayne Davies is services director at RM Education; you can gauge your school’s ICT effectiveness via RM Education’s online health check at tinyurl.com/rm-healthcheck