Technology is changing the world and will inevitably have a huge impact on the world our children grow up into. But as it becomes an increasingly integral part of education, so does the challenge for schools to save money, spend it wisely and use ICT more effectively.
Major cost-effective technological trends in education – such as the introduction and embedding of cloud-based applications and services – place ICT back under the control of your senior leadership team. Martin Pipe, Head of Service Design and Scope at leading ICT services provider RM Education, looks at how can you ensure the technology in your school is working for you – and your budget.
#1: Getting the basics right
Developing an ICT strategy which empowers teachers and learners, creates tangible improvements and fuels innovation both in and out of the classroom needn’t cost the earth, but it does need to start with a clear plan of what you actually want to achieve. So think about the particular challenges in your school or group of schools – what have school inspectors recommended you work on? And what kind of apps, devices and tools do your teachers like to use? Your ICT strategy should fully support your teachers’ pedagogy and become an intrinsic part of your Strategic Development Plan or School Improvement Plan, rather than standing alone as a separate objective.
#2: Navigating around budget restrictions
One of the most effective ways to reduce ICT costs is to change the way your budgets are used. Rather than having a large capital outlay on hardware and replacing costly servers like-for-like when they reach the end of their functional service, you could become a ‘serverless school’ where services and systems are delivered to staff and students through the internet. This allows the costs to be spread through a friendlier revenue model, and means you can opt for more cost-effective internet-optimised devices for your teachers and students. This model not only makes financial planning easier but reduces the need for schools to build up a capital fund for future ICT purchases.
#3: Reducing ICT support costs
Another financial benefit of this approach is a reduction in maintenance and support service costs, since cloud-based solutions have no local servers to manage, maintain, repair and in due course, replace. Usability is improved too, as staff and students can access systems from anywhere, on any internet-enabled device, rather than just within the school network. This allows Senior Leadership Teams to access the MIS from home or students to collaborate on and complete projects in the evening. Our research has indicated that having remote support in place can be infinitely more cost-effective for schools, with on average 60% of issues resolved remotely, reducing the need for a large on-site technical team and allowing schools to concentrate on physical tasks. Using outsourced support services will minimise unforeseen costs, mitigate future risks and support long-term cost savings of at least 15%.
#4: Making savings across a group
If you’re in a group of schools, you could also scale up and share IT support across the trust and when coupled with preferred ICT agreements and volume purchasing, ICT costs can be scrutinised at a central level, ensuring all schools in the trust are receiving the financial benefits delivered through economies of scale. As the preferred ICT provider to The Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), RM Education have, over the last two years, been part of a project which has helped AET to migrate their academies over to Google Apps for Education, complemented by a more cloud-based and server-less approach across all of their educational and operational functions. As part of the project, AET has explored potential cost savings derived from embracing these cloud tools. Over five years, the Trust are predicted to save £900,077 in costs as well as a substantial £7,701,044 in benefit savings**.
#5: Learning leading technology
Many schools’ ICT investment plans are driven by the latest technology trends, where ICT investment hasn’t been steered as to how the technology could and would support their pedagogy. Conversely there are other schools that have always had an ICT suite of 30 computers and as they get older they begin to slow down, the school simply goes out and buys the same again because that’s what they’ve always done. But what if you don’t even need these computers? What if your pupils are only really using them to write a few documents or do some brief research on the internet? In that case, you would probably be better with something like a Chromebook, which gives you access to tools like Google Classroom for free. And, since the devices are half the cost of a PC, you’re immediately reducing your spend as well as using a more collaborative tool which will help give your students future career skills.
#6: Keeping up with fast-moving changes
It is well documented that there is an increasing pressure on schools to keep up to date with fast-moving changes in technology. These demands however aren’t necessarily coming from the government or any curriculum-based changes though, although there is a need to deliver at curriculum level on subjects such as coding. Rather, these drivers ultimately come from children and parents since they are regularly using the latest technology in their everyday lives. There will always be challenges implementing any new technology, but your ICT provider should know your school well enough to be able to make tailored recommendations about what technology could work best for you and solve issues which are unique to your individual learning environment.
#7: Mitigating lost teaching time
Ever-decreasing budgets aren’t the only issue schools face when it comes to technology; time is a huge factor too. There are only a set number of teaching hours in the school year, so if your network goes down and you lose days of teaching time – particularly during a GCSE year – you will reach a point where that lost time can never be regained. Through focusing on the pedagogical outcomes to which your school aspires and using them to shape your ICT strategy, precious budgets can be spent in a manner that provides the maximum return.
For more information on the above, and to read about the experiences of other schools already on this journey, visit www.rm.com
* Based on RM Education’s independent survey, 2015 http://bit.ly/1RhUUvU
** AET, Google Apps Cost Savings and Benefits http://bit.ly/1Rs8jzK