The UK education sector spent £1.13 billion on new software in the last year, a record high and 50% more than a decade ago, according to finance provider LDF.
Schools’ spending on IT has now risen consistently over the last four years following a drop in spending immediately after the 2010 election.
LDF explains that schools had previously increased IT spending in anticipation of the new computing curriculum in September 2014, and continue to invest ahead of the new school year. The curriculum’s emphasis on teaching coding and programming is encouraging schools to develop investment in software; coding is becoming a popular extra-curricular activity with many after-school clubs providing additional support.
As well as the software schools employ as part of classroom teaching, back office IT systems are becoming increasingly important. Systems that assist with pupil attendance monitoring, behaviour management and parent communication can help schools improve outcomes for children. These management systems can also help generate reports for schools governors and inspectors, freeing up teacher time.
“Just like any other modern organisation schools rely on their IT infrastructure to function properly.’
Revised budget rules for Academies and Free Schools means that they enjoy greater freedom to spend as they choose. Whilst some schools may focus on sport, music, or classical languages, IT investment supports teaching across subject areas.
Peter Alderson, Managing Director of LDF says: “IT is increasingly a fundamental part of learning across the curriculum, rather than just a standalone subject. Utilising the best equipment is vital to delivering a high quality education.”
“Just like any other modern organisation schools rely on their IT infrastructure to function properly. Systems that give teachers detailed data on their pupils’ performance can add as much to the classroom environment as interactive whiteboards, albeit more subtly. They also help teachers deal with the paper work, giving them more time to teach.”
LDF says that an increasing number of schools now use leasing options to facilitate their purchases of hardware. Smaller capital commitments help to smooth cashflow through the lifetime of the computers and allow schools more flexibility to make software purchases.
Alderson continues: “Capital expenditure for investment can be problematic for schools as in many cases they are prohibited from certain types of borrowing.
“An operating lease, such as those offered by LDF can assist schools to access the IT equipment they need, when they need it and is the only form of lease agreement schools are currently permitted to enter into without prior approval from the Education Funding Agency.
“Participation in the digital economy now starts in childhood – as any parent who lends their iPhone to their children to play games can attest. The government’s ambition is to create a nation of ‘coding natives’ not just ‘digital natives’ and IT investment in schools is the first building block in achieving this vision.”