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Easing ICT spend for the future

Building a long-term partnership with the right supplier will encourage ICT managers to shop smarter, says Mark McCormack

Posted by Hannah Oakman | July 08, 2016 | Secondary

According to Ofcom research* 14 and 15 year olds are the most technology-savvy in the UK. Teenagers are the most demanding when it comes to having the latest gadgets to work from and with over 2.7 million students attending secondary schools in the UK** this ‘demand’ creates a great burden on the school’s ICT department to keep up. Also, increasing government pressure for schools to become academies could potentially reduce IT budgets after the initial £1.5 billion additional allocation from Mr Osborne.

Technology in schools should be used to support learning, but challenges like device management, product lifecycle, and creating an effective mobile environment for students still frustrate most ICT departments. In addition, the annual ‘budget burn’ at the end of the financial year can often see schools buying more IT equipment than what is needed and left with unused devices.  

Modern ICT managers are facing many more challenges than in previous years. For example, it is now not just what equipment to buy in, but how to integrate new technology into the learning environment within a tight budget. They also need to manage the devices that are being brought in to schools by students, opening up potential security holes.

ICT teams need more support from their suppliers. They should be looking at long-term technology solutions rather than just short-term fixes that could simply waste vital school budget.

In-depth analysis of current technology

Assessing what technology the school already has in place should be the starting point for any technology project. Looking at the hardware, network and software packages the school already owns could save a lot of money. It could also be an opportunity to build a new and more efficient solution for the school using equipment already available. Too many schools simply just discard redundant devices and computers, but this hardware could be recycled or reused. 

Taking a step back and just looking at what is already there, plus identifying what the school truly wants to achieve through technology can help ICT managers understand what needs to be planned and the timescale it can be accomplished in.

To do this successfully, ICT managers should look to their IT suppliers to assess the current situation. Looking at it from the outside can help identify issues that may have been overlooked by the school. For example, BYOD in the classroom brings flexibility to learning for students, but can also open up the option for teachers to be more productive and able to mark homework and do reports and lesson planning all remotely.   

Phased approach

Rather then just selling equipment and leaving the school to integrate new devices into the classroom, ICT managers should look to suppliers to offer a more staggered approach to deploying new technology. Following the initial assessment stage, a planned approach mapping out key milestones to make sure all hardware, networks and devices work together should be taken. An important part of the plan must include a sustainable curriculum training program to ensure teachers and students get to maximise the new technology to its full potential.

Long-term partnerships

Building a long-term partnership with the right supplier will encourage ICT managers to shop smarter and lower the cost of ownership whilst being able to take advantage of possible financial support to procure the latest equipment. It will help reduce year-on-year spending on IT as both parties are familiar with the equipment already in place. The relationship will also ensure that a plan and solution is created that will meet the schools requirements and fit the current infrastructure.

Partnering long-term with a supplier will help schools increase their productivity and efficiency as well as enhance the overall learning experience for students. The right partnerships will support each curriculum in schools as the demand for technology within education continues to grow.

ICT teams do not have to struggle alone with the on-going challenge that technology brings. Planning for the long-term future with a trusted partner will make all the difference, not just to the school’s purse, but also to the effectiveness of both students and teachers using that technology.

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/communications-market-reports/cmr14/uk/
** https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-education/about/statistics

Mark McCormack is public sector director, Academia

W: www.academia.co.uk 

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