Assessing your school’s ICT Needs

   

When it comes to assessing your school’s ICT needs, there is simply no point in looking at it from a technical perspective, otherwise you’re only going to get technical answers. For it to be truly effective you need to look at the bigger picture and consider things like: “What are the big problems in the school?” and “How can ICT fix or alleviate them?”

When doing an IT audit, there are three key areas schools should examine including the vision. Taking an ‘outcomes’ approach and working out what you want the end result to be will help you to make more informed decisions. It’s important to consider your audience as the outcomes may be different depending on whether it’s for students, staff, parents, governors and wider stakeholders.

Next, they need to assess the technology, including the strength of the school’s connectivity; its infrastructure (the network, WiFi and equipment); and whether licensing is up to date (on-premise licenses are being increased in price from 1 July 2018 and to mitigate those price rises effectively, schools need to move to the cloud).

It’s important for staff to see ICT as an interconnected chain. Every part of the system is inextricably linked and if schools ‘break the chain’ in any way, by removing or altering an aspect of it without seeking expert help, then the whole system can be impacted.

For example, the connectivity coming into the building is vital, but the “chain breaks” if the Wi-Fi infrastructure is out of date or not fit for purpose. Equally this is only effective if the network security is current, which can in turn be compromised if the equipment and software aren’t up-to-date. This means you need a good back-up to avoid a security breach, preferably in the cloud in a secure, data centre with restricted access. This is vital in minimising the risk of data falling into the wrong hands, which can easily happen if your policies aren’t regularly updated and people don’t know what’s permissible. Equally, if staff haven’t been sufficiently trained, then mistakes can be made which could be detrimental for the school. It’s therefore vital to ensure that the whole process is recognised as interlinked. Managing ICT is just like running a car; you have to consider and maintain each and every part to ensure it stays safe and runs smoothly.

Once all of the technology in the school has been assessed, schools should then look at their finances. From here, they need to work out what the total cost of ownership is and look at where savings could be made. For example, DfE Facilities Management team estimates that 25 per cent of a school’s energy budget goes towards server power and cooling, when in fact this could be avoided by moving to the cloud.

You can’t run an organisation the size of a school without having good quality ICT infrastructure, but most schools simply don’t have the scope, scale or experience to go out to tender, evaluate responses, and negotiate deals, which sometimes leads to poor decision making. With the rapid pace of technological change, it’s no surprise that schools don’t have the skills required to understand the efficacy of a resource or product and whether it actually meets the needs of the school. This is why the DfE’s recommended route is for schools to use a procurement framework to help schools make more effective and efficient decisions when investing in ICT.