With school ICT budgets still feeling the squeeze in education funding, it’s become increasingly important to do more with less. ICT is a major part of every aspect of school life. It is relied upon for the obvious function of classroom technology, but also for homework, room booking, on-site security, parents evening registration, office administration, termly reporting, staff communication and more.
In order to maintain expected standards in the face of the ever-expanding ICT remit, the budget has to stretch. We’ve put together six suggestions on how to maximise your school’s ICT budget.
1. Create a Strategic ICT Plan
Do you have an up-to-date strategic ICT plan in place? It’s an easy thing to let slip and a time consuming thing to produce. However, to be able to maximise your budget you need to plan how you’re going to spend it, and audit how you have been spending it. If you’re new to strategic planning, it can be tricky to know where to begin, but by answering a few prompt questions you’ll soon find your stride.
- What does your ICT currently deliver?
- What projects have you recently completed?
- Where could you make further improvements in your ICT?
- What is your overarching vision for ICT at the school?
- What steps do you need to take to implement this vision?
These steps should give you a clearer idea of how to get to where you want to be. We recommend focussing on the future, making a multi-year plan and then break this down into years and terms. This can help you budget for regular renewals or known migrations well in advance.
2. Audit Your Existing ICT Resources
How well do you track what resources are in your school? Do you keep a living inventory or just create one every few years when you change support company? Take the time and go through every ICT resource in your school – this includes hardware and software.
For hardware, ask the lead equipment owner to document the usage level of each device to build up an accurate picture of under/over utilised resources. For a projector this could be a department head, or for tablets this could be the classroom teacher.
With software, compile a list of all software attributed to each department and request feedback on usage levels – you may find you’re paying for subscriptions to barely used apps and learning resources. Whether this saving is directly attributed back to the ICT budget or not, it’s still a saving made by the school and will help in the long run.
3. Share Resources Between Departments and Schools
If there are a few other schools in close proximity, get together and have a chat. You’re probably all in the same boat, trying to pull rabbits out of hats and keep at the forefront of IT with minimal funds.
You also may all be at different stages of a strategic plan or infrastructure cycle. Learn from each other and see what resources could be reasonably shared. One school could have an excellent relationship with their LED screen supplier, by grouping together to purchase in bulk you could all get a reduced rate for better technology. Don’t forget to check out the operational and logistical implications of this. You may need to formally set up a holding group to purchase officially, etc – speak to your school Business Manager – they will be able to advise and support you in this matter.
Another school may have a 3D printer they use occasionally in lessons, they could rent this expensive item out, both making back a return themselves, and thus enabling your school to not have to purchase such an item yourselves.
In a more simplistic sense, you could be enlightened to new software and learning resources being used locally. Your fellow IT managers can provide realistic feedback before you commit to investing your budget in this way.
Lastly, don’t forget to look internally. In a big school you could have IT resources gathering dust in a departmental cupboard, yet a different department may put in a request for this exact same item for themselves. As part of your audit you should have identified the usage demands on all of your school’s equipment. If it transpires the art department use that dusty 3D projector once a term and science want it for a 3 lesson arc once a year – implement a sharing plan. Use IT to make a booking request system to minimise disruption to teaching and learning. This ensures there are no overlaps and everyone has access to the resources they need.
MATs can go a step further and start sharing infrastructure to achieve lower running costs, reduced environmental impact, stronger safeguarding and improved communications. Explore the benefits of becoming a Multi-Academy Trust in our article.
4. Explore the Value of Free Resources
There are a lot of free resources available for education. Microsoft and Google offer their productivity suites to education for free. Your school may be choosing to pay for an enhanced subscription, but as part of your audit, determine if you’re really getting the value from this. Otherwise, revert back to the basic package and get Microsoft Office 365 or Google for Education entirely free.
In addition, take a look at software companies that bundle a few products into the one solution. Do they offer additional discounts for multiple purchases? Is it simply more cost-effective to buy a package rather than each individual product from a few different suppliers?
If you’re still using on-premise email, such as Microsoft Exchange, calculate what you could save by migrating to Office 365. Don’t forget to factor in the power, cooling and space savings you’d make. Read more in our article on Migrating from Exchange to Office 365.
5. Teacher Training
Having state of the art technology is only beneficial if your users know how to realise its full potential. You may have racks of iPads that only come out once a day. Your teachers may be embarrassed by the fact the students are more familiar with navigating the devices than they are. Or the teachers may not have had spare time to learn how to use the latest revolutionary Office 365 app.
Providing staff training delivers CPD to your teachers and also the skills to make the most of their existing resources. Instead of allocating budget to infrastructure, put a bit of time into running training sessions, or put some budget aside for organised training sessions on an inset day.
6. Alternative Purchasing Methods
Due to the strain being placed on school budgets, it’s becoming more commonplace, particularly in secondary schools, to see parent purchase programmes for personal notebooks or laptops. More and more, teaching and learning is demanding one-to-one device access. Schools are trying to ensure pupils keep up with their peers across the county. When they simply don’t have the budget left they’re turning to the parents for support.
Purchasing outright also doesn’t have to be the only way to upgrade your devices and peripherals. There are cost-effective leasing options available which can be an effective way to regularly refresh your equipment.
You also don’t have to do it all yourself. Find a partner who has strong relationships with vendors, distributors and leasing companies. This can give you both education specific discounts and economies of scale – going direct isn’t always the cheapest route. Have a look at the different types of devices your school could purchase and how M-Tech could help.
School ICT budgets reported having had a slight boost in the past year or so, however, “two-thirds of secondary schools still state not being sufficiently equipped with ICT infrastructure and devices,” Caroline Wright, director general of BESA.
Those of you in charge of ICT budgets are having to work as hard as you can to maintain the standards expected in the British education system. M-Tech can work with you in any way to need to help your budget go further. We can support you with purchasing, device management, teacher training, Office or Google migration, network infrastructure design, project planning and plenty more. We will help you, from both an education and business perspective, to satisfy all stakeholders with an interest in ICT in your school – talk to us today.