Have recent curriculum changes made it more difficult for schools to balance budgets?
Balancing budgets has always been a challenge but the recent curriculum changes have not necessarily made this more difficult. Recent changes in English, Maths and ICT have been quite significant. The main budgetary consideration relating to these changes has been training, ensuring that staff are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver quality teaching. This takes time and usually involves taking the teacher out of class for a period of time, which in turn incurs additional costs associated with supply cover.
The need to invest in training has been essential for the development of skills and knowledge, but also from a motivational perspective. The changes to the ICT curriculum have been very daunting to non-specialist teaching staff as the new curriculum talks about de-bugging and programming for instance.
Do current budgets realistically allow schools to provide high-quality tech?
Generally no. By its very nature technology is always developing and, consequently, it is extremely difficult for a school to keep abreast of this. Schools try to ensure that the latest and most up to date technology is accessible to students, however, as soon as the resources are committed and the investment made then something new becomes available. Like with many other organisations, budgets vary considerably and ultimately the resources available depend upon how effectively those budgets have been managed and what priorities have been agreed by the schools leadership team and governor’s.
Recent changes mean that schools are now required to pay for a variety of things that were once provided by the local authority, such as SEN services, general maintenance and even getting bins emptied. These extra demands on a school’s budget and the need to maintain standards typically means that maintaining fundamental requirements, such as staffing structures, are the priority so quite often investment in technology is further down the list.
Do you think all schools now see investing in technology as a priority?
All schools understand the importance of technology. Schools not only need to have good quality technology to compete with other schools, but it’s also vital for the children’s motivation and enthusiasm as most of them are surrounded by it at home – tablets, laptops, phones, social media – and therefore, schools need to keep up-to-date.
There are so many motivational tools which use technology that make all sorts of things possible for children. For example, accelerated reading technologies which look to develop children’s reading abilities require easy access to tablets or computers. Ultimately, the role of the school is to prepare children for adulthood and the world of work. Therefore, having the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to use technology is fundamental. It is vital that they are equipped for the future and any school who doesn’t see technology as a priority is not acting responsibly.
Are businesses working alongside schools able to offer top-quality service that stay within a school’s budget?
Not in all areas, but there are some very good examples from both a local and national perspective. Typically, schools do not employ procurement professionals so they are often dependent upon the support of local government and national buying consortiums such as YPO, ESPO or Crown Commercial Services. These organisations provide schools with access to a range of contracts negotiated at a national level thereby ensuring best value, peace of mind and compliance to procurement regulations. Framework contracts such as RM1599 allow schools to contract for the latest technologies, leveraging extremely good pricing and in most instances, savings money.
What three things do schools need to think about when looking for the most cost-effective, high-quality technology?
Quality. Having a quality product or service which is reliable. Support. Working with a partner(s) who will assist in the procurement of technology through to the supply and on-going maintenance, ensuring value for money and maximum return on investment. Future proofing. Ensuring that an investment made today is sustainable into the future.