The reality for many IT departments in the education sector today is that budgets are under pressure.
Our ‘State of Networking in Education Report 2017’ examines this issue, and offers insight into the other challenges and opportunities currently being faced in the sector.
Budget constraints are particularly being felt in state schools. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), schools in England are facing the first real-terms cuts to their funding since the mid-1990s, with spending per pupil set to fall 6.5% by 2019–20.
Unsurprisingly, tight budgets are resulting in some serious challenges for IT staff, such as difficulties in persuading other senior managers of the need to invest in network upgrades in order to meet increasing demands.
Perhaps most seriously, financial constraints also appear to be resulting in suboptimal integration of IT into teaching and learning. The report states that this raises ‘questions as to whether we are preparing our young people with the skills required by a 21st century workforce.’
It also highlights that:
- 56% of respondents stated that IT is only ‘somewhat integrated’ into learning at their institution
- 56% agreed that ‘poor quality, faulty, or out-of-date IT equipment is one of the main reasons for teachers not utilising technology in schools’
- Over half of all respondents from independents, secondary schools and colleges agreed with the statement: ‘“The long-term benefits of using learning technology are being overlooked due to more immediate priorities and needs.” In contrast, less than a quarter of primary schools and universities agreed with the same statement.
David Burns, Network Services Manager at Harrogate Grammar School, is one of the IT Managers who contributed to the report. In relation to IT integration into teaching and learning, he notes that expectations have shifted—and continue to shift.
“Computers and mobile devices [are] increasingly seen as essential for teaching and learning, as well as for the day- to-day operations of a school,” he says.
In our experience, that is true across the sector—growth in demand from users to connect multiple devices to a wireless network shows no sign of abating.
Improving IT integration in your classrooms
A study by the House of Lords digital skills committee in 2015 said that IT skills should be given the same importance as numeracy and literacy in British schools—but that is clearly a difficult goal to achieve without sufficient resources.
Whilst some institutions are fortunate enough to have the budgets to stay on top of new developments, for others a lack of funds is affecting innovation and the ability to really use IT to improve learning.
If you are unsure about where you stand in relation to your peer institutions, a Network Health Check can be a great way of helping you to establish if your network is sufficiently capable of supporting teaching and learning in your institution.
A check will test and analyse the critical components of your network for reliability, performance, and any obvious security issues. If the IT budget at your institution is under pressure, this type of review can be particularly useful, as it can help you identify the most urgent priorities that you should be focusing on.
Have your say
Is your school struggling with IT integration? Have you found the right balance between hardware and network readiness? Put your hand up for the 2018 report and have your say.
The survey collects responses from top educational providers across the UK, resulting in a full report.
Take 10 minutes to contribute your opinion to the report, scheduled for release in early 2018, and gain insights into the challenges faced by education organisations throughout the UK, as reported by the organisations themselves. Use these insights to inform key IT decisions for 2018, improving the state of IT for your education organisation and the pupils it benefits.