With school budgets under increasing pressure one of the first casualties of any cost cutting, after staffing, is usually the ICT budget. Ben Whitaker, head of IT services at Bury Grammar School and co-founder of the Association of Network Managers in Education (ANME), considers how to do more with less in this sparse environment
ICT is now prevalent in every aspect of school life. Schools are reliant on ICT from classroom technology to backend functions. In the face of shrinking budgets, it is always going to be a tough call where to make the cuts and save costs while, at the same time, keeping the same standard of ICT availability and progression.
From previous experience of handling this fine balancing act over the years, I have found a series of measures that can help in the process without significantly impacting the levels of service offered by the ICT team.
Get a grip
The first aspect is to get a grip of the ICT budget. You need to know what is being spent and where. You will usually find licensing and subscription services amount to a large proportion of the ICT budget; I always check, not only that these services are still needed, but that they are also being utilised to their full potential. In addition, check out companies that tie multiple products into one solution; savings could be made this way, rather than having individual products for each service – such as text messaging, room booking and parents’ evenings.
Another area is the refreshing of ICT equipment. Most schools used to work towards three or five-year refresh cycles, but this has become unsustainable in the current climate. Here decisions can be made to either extend the life of the device or find more cost-effective solutions. From my own experience, I have found that, by both increasing the memory and changing the hard drive to SSDs, you can not only increase performance, but also, potentially, get at least two extra years from a device.
This can vary from school-to-school, and the preference of the person in charge of purchasing the ICT equipment, but good quality, refurbished stock from the likes of ICT Direct and Rapid IT can really make a small budget go a long way – and most refurbished kit also comes with a warranty. Consideration needs to be given to what tasks the devices will be performing and, with the ever-changing pace of ICT, it’s also important to ask if it’s still worth investing so much in fixed devices.
This is just a small selection of ways I have found to make the most of a limited budget. The decisions being made not always educational ones; rather, they are ‘business’ decisions. I am sure colleagues in a similar position have other ways they have managed to stretch their budgets, so talking with those based in other schools can provide further insights. If you are an ANME member, of course, these can be shared on the ANME portal.
This article featured in the December/January issue of Education Executive. Subscribe now to keep up-to-date with the latest in school business management and leadership.