Many schools share the same challenges when it comes to ICT. Gone are the days when a school’s IT infrastructure serviced the school admin department and a computer studies suite. Now every individual within the school community requires access to IT, often for multiple use and on multiple devices.
User experience is one area that schools often struggle with; as staff and students alike find the performance of the school’s ageing IT doesn’t match their experience of the computers and devices they use at home. In my experience of speaking to schools and education authorities about their ICT issues, there is often a great frustration that such an important and useful resource is underutilised because of poor performance.
ICT demand In the national curriculum
In recent years ICT in schools has been going through a bit of a shakeup, with the new computing curriculum coming into force in September 2014. This now includes everything from basic digital literacy to learning about algorithms and coding. Resulting in even more demand for a whole host of ICT assets and services.
Of course, IT is not just used during computer science lessons, it’s increasingly integrated into all subjects and activities – if the school’s IT infrastructure allows.
Advice for upgrading your ICT suite
To meet this increased demand for ICT and Government targets, many schools are looking to upgrade their ICT suites. Of course funding is a major consideration for any school and subject to standards of accountability. Therefore it is essential to manage not only the available budget but also to look for long-term savings.
Many schools will produce an ICT strategic document involving all the school’s stakeholders and identifying how ICT is currently used, as well as a vision for the future. This should include functional requirements that support the delivery of learning, teaching and management, as well technical requirements. Core principles will also be an element of this document such as value for money, institutional infrastructure, environmental sustainability etc.
Typically, the ICT provision that will meet the demands of the strategic document will include all or some of the following:
- hardware and networks
- broadband services and connectivity
- phone lines
- hire of ICT equipment
- maintenance and support of ICT used for teaching and learning
What elements of this list a school needs to upgrade will depend on the existing IT infrastructure, the vision highlighted in the ICT strategic document and, of course, budget.
Getting value for money
So if you’re looking to upgrade your school’s ICT suite what can you do to get value for money? First off is the tendering process, which should ensure a competitive price. However, it’s vital that you write a clear specification and put together an evaluation criteria so you can judge different bids against each other.
Another way to manage your IT budget is to see whether your local authority has a procurement or buying mechanism in place that can get you a better price.
I’ve also seen great inter-school collaborations being developed to help drive costs down. Combining your joint buying power on hardware, software and support can all get your school (and partner schools) a better price. Many schools already have existing relationships with feeder schools in their local area, and there can be real advantages for all parties both in terms of reducing costs, but also in providing excellent ICT learning and teaching.
Have a look at our case studies to see how we’ve helped schools meet the demand for ICT and the budgetary constraints.