The IT crowd

The Independent Schools’™ Bursars Association (ISBA) reveals the results of its first-ever ICT Survey of independent schools

The Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA) has launched the results of its recent Information Communications Technology (ICT) survey of independent schools across the UK. The first sector-wide survey of its kind, the ICT survey reveals some insightful trends into how technology is being used in schools – both preparatory and senior, big and small – and provide pointers to schools and suppliers to the sector on ICT strategy and procurement planning for the future.

“Today sees us all living and working in a fast-moving technological world,” explains Mike Lower, general secretary of the ISBA. “Schools face particular challenges in keeping pace with new developments and ensuring the necessary level of ICT investment to meet the growing expectation from pupils, staff and parents of technology-rich learning environments.”

The ISBA’s ICT survey results are based on the anonymous responses of 271 independent schools (all members of the Independent Schools Council), including both boarding and day schools. The average school size was 693 pupils, although many smaller schools also participated in the survey.

The results indicate that schools are increasingly creating more mobile environments for their pupils, with educational software being accessed over the internet and via teachers’ and pupils’ own devices. Perhaps unsurprisingly, schools believe that keeping pace with future connectivity will be a major challenge, with 50% of survey respondents anticipating bandwidth requirements growing by more than 100% over the next three years.

“Enhanced connectivity is also becoming increasingly important as schools look to make more use of e-learning and, in particular, streamed video,” Mike adds. “This indicates that ICT staff in schools will increasingly need to spend less time running systems and traditional location-based machines, and more time training staff and pupils to use software more effectively. Although most schools support a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme for staff and pupils, the remit of ICT staff will increasingly need to be more focused on developing a formal approach to managing personal device access to the school’s IT infrastructure and services.”

With nearly half of the schools in the survey expecting capital expenditure on ICT to rise by up to 25% in the next three years, and nearly two thirds of schools predicting revenue spending to increase by 20% overall, the importance of investment and procurement planning for schools cannot be overstated. With this level of spend commitment, it is likely that more schools will need to join the 70% that currently have a dedicated ICT strategy group.

However, of those schools already managing an ICT planning group, only half include the Head within this group. Few schools, meanwhile, have taken the step of publishing their strategic plan for ICT. The survey results indicate that schools could clearly benefit from senior ‘buy-in’ to strategic planning and further development of traditional ICT staff roles to ensure that staff can spend more time delivering training and supporting the dissemination of best practice to maximise ICT investment.

The survey also demonstrated that although there are many software suppliers supporting independent schools, fewer providers of Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) work with the independent school sector. “In both administrative and VLE environments, the survey results show us that schools could benefit from ‘banding together’ in their contract negotiations with large vendors, thereby increasing their access to the best services,” Mike explains. “Schools could also reduce the cost of administering their ICT solutions by adopting shared service delivery models. These, in turn, would support the dissemination of best practice, benefiting the sector as a whole”.

All schools that completed the ISBA’s ICT survey are benefiting from an individual and online bespoke report on ICT usage in their school. This enables schools to measure their own performance against other schools of a similar size and type, informing their own procurement and planning. ISBA member schools can access the report via the ISBA website: non-members should contact the association to discuss the options for access to the report.

The ISBA also offers suppliers to the independent school market the opportunity to purchase a copy of the survey, thereby gaining valuable insights into the providers currently working within the market and likely trends in schools’ future purchasing. Interested parties should email the ISBA at the address below. 

T: 01256 330369

E: office@theisba.org.uk

W: www.theisba.org.uk

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