With the government cutting back on public sector spending in order to curb the nation’s deficit, the impact that this will have on technology in schools will be far reaching.
Steve Smith, director of learning for outsourcer Capita IT Services and a former deputy headmaster, claims that in order for schools to continue to improve IT capabilities, they must explore new approaches, including making use of the students' own laptops and devices.
“The last 15 years saw continuous growth in the use of IT in schools. However, the budget reductions we are faced with now will be more challenging,” he said.
He added that they are particularly challenging as most senior leaders in schools haven’t been through a period where they have had to manage declining budgets.
“There has been an assumption in the past that the school will provide technology for its children and there’s been a real move to improving the number of devices within the classroom,” he said.
There was around one computer to every 30 to 40 students 15 years ago, while now, in better-equipped secondary schools, there’s around one PC per student, he explained.
“The cutbacks are not going to stop the demand for those devices, so you’ll see more schools asking children to use their own devices,” he said.
Smith added that one of the challenges will be to enable this without bringing risk into the school’s network, or letting it negatively impact on those children who don’t have their own technology, as there is still a digital divide.
“This move towards students using their own devices has already happened in the university sector – a student is now expected to start university with their own laptop.”
He added that budget cuts will also cause an increase in outsourcing and virtualisation in schools. “If you look at modern secondary schools, you may see 20 or 30 servers on site managed by technicians who may or may not have the s kills to do that – some of those server products are going to be fairly complex – with firewalls, email servers, management information servers – the kind of applications that are pretty critical to the way schools are run.
"Cost cutting will start to make schools look at the kind of services they use and I think cloud-based computing will become far more relevant.
“In addition, people will start to see how some of the technologies can be rationalised. I think you’ll see a rise in virtual desktop and thin-client technology, because one of the big challenges for schools is the cost of ownership of those devices – and that’s clearly going to be curbed,” Smith concluded.