Since schools were given the freedom to spend their budget to suit their own specific needs, school leaders have been under increasing pressure to invest wisely and balance their budgets. There are of course many advantages of this new autonomy; schools are best placed to know what their students require for their specific developmental needs and they are able to source services from the best supplier (whether a local authority or commercial organisation), being just two.
However, with the freedom to make these very individual choices comes the significant demand on schools’ time to research and select the most relevant, efficient and effective option. Added to this, is the pressure to have the best resources to drive up standards while carefully managing budgets.
Even before this freedom was granted, schools were struggling to keep up with the relentless pace of technology advancement coupled with the necessary associated training due to limited budgets; today the challenge is even greater.
The importance of budgeting for training with all product investment, was recently highlighted in an OECD report examining the impact of school technology on international test results. While the report showed that the late adopter, developing countries were, in general, the biggest offenders, sadly, despite plentiful advice to the contrary, many schools in developed countries still under utilise what they have purchased. This is because they haven’t invested in the necessary training to maximise the return on investment.
When budgets are tight, rather than paying a relatively higher initial cost for associated training, extended warranty, possible networking and support, schools can easily be swayed into feeling they are saving money by simply buying the hardware.
But of course, if a lack of training and support results in only a fraction of the products’ potential being realised, it is actually a more expensive option.
Today schools have to act as businesses to attract students, so offering a 21st century comprehensive technology experience is not only attractive but expected.
At SMART Technologies we call on all schools to consider a new way of investing to get the very best technology and learning support, while managing their budgets across the school year. There are many options available, and schools are in the strong position of having the right to demand what they want. We recommend that schools don’t get tied into expensive fixed contracts. School leaders should be able to decide on the monthly investment they want to make on state-of-the-art hardware, software, networking support and training, and spread the payment over an agreed length of time. By buying in this way from approved, established manufacturers significant savings can be achieved.
Fully-flexible utility service models that can support the entire technology infrastructure requirement for schools remove a lot of today’s complex, time-consuming management issues.
Our children need technology to be a natural part of school life on an ongoing, sustainable basis. Only when the right education technology and training is in place can better learning outcomes be realised.
Colin Bosher is product manager of SMART Technologies’ ClaaS (Classrooms-as-a-Service). SMART Technologies will be on stand D80 at Bett 2016.