School budget cuts and how to make material savings

Not to sound like a broken record, but…funding! It’s tight. However, in every challenge there’s an opportunity – an opportunity for development, innovation, savings. Ian Nairn, cloud adviser and director of C-Learning, discusses the proposed new funding formula, school budget cuts and how to make material savings

Ian Nairn C-Learning
Ian Nairn, cloud adviser
The DfE’s proposed new funding formula has caused concern over school budgets. It’s been reported that up to 9,000 urban schools stand to see a decrease in funding as the money pot gets redistributed.
According to the DfE, no school will lose more than three per cent of their overall allocation, with the maximum cut capped at 1.5% per year but, when senior leadership teams are already struggling to make ends meet, these cuts are body blows that most schools could do without.

So what can be done?

Before we start shedding staff – who account for anything upwards of 70% of school budgets and fulfil the vital role of delivering education and driving outcomes – or trim the curriculum options available to students, let’s pause to review resources and think strategically about how to improve efficiency and cut costs.
In a recent survey, IT as a service from build to consume, McKinsey&Company reported that businesses nationwide are now moving a material proportion of their IT workload to off-premise cloud environments, with cost often perceived as the key driver of this shift. Large corporates, including HSBC, Disney and eBay, are all improving the efficiency of their IT departments by moving to the cloud.
Perhaps – in the name of cost-efficiency and data safety – it’s time UK schools followed suit and reduced their spend on on-premise ICT in a bid to save money and improve efficiency?

Moving to the cloud: The hard and fast savings

Hardware: According to Ben Forte, director of Learning Commons and network manager at Devonport High School for Boys, Plymouth, the benefits are significant. A traditional 30 PC Windows suite, typically, costs around £15,000 – money that can be better spent purchasing approximately 100 Chromebooks running Google’s Chrome operating system and designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud.
Software: Hardware is not the only saving to be made. In addition, schools which move to the cloud can make savings in excess of £50,000 per year by dispensing with Windows licensing, Office licensing and by reducing printing and power consumption.
Time: Roger Nixon, director of ICT at Wheatley Park School, says more quality time spent teaching is another plus. No longer do teachers need to stand at the front of the class waiting for 30 students to boot up their individual PCs, only to discover the software they need is not available. Why? Because Chromebooks are internet-based, access is super swift.
It is not only teachers and students who stand to benefit – because most cloud- based solutions no longer depend on specific hardware requirements, this also frees up the time of network managers who, instead of fire-fighting, can spend more time on strategic planning.
Storage: Yes, hard drives are becoming cheaper and cheaper but the volume of data created just keeps growing. Users today want media-rich content and don’t want to be restricted to a couple of hundred megabytes as was the case in years gone by. Cloud-based solutions remove the worry of running out of space and the cost of not only growing your users’ capacity but also your backup capacity.

Security, security, security

Security issues are also covered as measures put in place by companies such as Google are, typically, far superior to those that schools can implement themselves. Cloud-based solutions’ data is served over HTTPS and spread across multiple servers in several data centres; two-stage authentication is used to prevent unauthorized users gaining access.
It’s a win-win situation and one that will ultimately free up budget – from tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds – to be used effectively elsewhere around the school.
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