With continually squeezed budgets, schools are looking for ways to generate income from the resources they have.
More often than not this falls to the letting out of site facilities, or the sharing of staff across multiple sites. Both are very low investment, the former requiring some additional management by the site team, the latter flexibility in staffing arrangements.
Government initiatives have led to schools grouping together to form multi-academy trusts and share resources. Stronger schools are able to support and enhance weaker schools, and improve education and access to opportunities for all.
A lesser explored way to share resources is through technology. Another recent government initiative is the encouragement of cloud computing in UK schools. In mid-July 2016, the Department for Education published ‘Cloud computing services: guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies’. This detailed guide covers the impact of cloud computing on:
- schools’ ICT plans
- teaching and learning
Adopting new IT services can be challenging and disruptive, particularly in smaller schools who may not have any in-house expertise.
When schools work together they become more powerful; they can share staff knowledge and become stronger purchasing entities. After joining together, the schools may wish to look at ways to collaborate on their connectivity and ICT resources. By making changes to existing connectivity models there is naturally going to be up front investment required. This however could be phased in in stages, taking strategic steps towards developing an efficient, streamlined process.
All schools in the group can be supported by a central ICT team who maintain all hardware and software at one main site, these resources can then be distributed out to the other schools and the team can travel to sites as and when necessary. This hub and spoke model works best if all schools are in a similar location, with accessible driving distances between each.
The collaborative ICT model can stretch to more than simply Internet connectivity. A central cloud can be setup to incorporate network protection, web filtering, remote backup, server and storage, virtualisation environments, telephony, print services, and anything else that can be centrally hosted.
By making the most of economies of scale, school groups can gain access to enterprise-level and next-generation technologies the individuals may not have been able to, for example, as a small 80 student primary school in a remote location.
Generate Income from your Technology Investment
With a hosted ICT model in place, technology can lead to income generation. As the group or trust have already made the initial investment and are acting as a service provider to their own schools, there is no reason to not act as a service provider for external schools. There are many reasons why schools may not want to join together under a management model; there may be distinct cultural or operating differences, but few reasons why they would not want to benefit from access to managed, high-level technologies at an affordable monthly cost.
The group or trust can formulate package pricing as they see fit, simply needing to ensure they scale up their resource availability when required, as new schools are added into the mix.
The first stage to going down this road of course comes from addressing existing connectivity and forming a strategy to develop this. An ICT solutions provider such as M-Tech would work in partnership with you to understand exact requirements and create a suitable and achievable plan, adhering to budgets and timescales.
A Connectivity Solution in Surrey
M-Tech architected and installed a connectivity solution for a group of six academies in Surrey in late 2016. The Trust has since grown to twelve academies; more ‘spokes’ have been successfully added to their ‘hub’. To read the outline of this case study and request a full PDF copy, please visit our Bourne Education Trust project page.