Schools prepare for cuts to IT budgets

Spending on school computer equipment set to fall as Government ICT funds dry up

Barry Collins
22 Sep 2010

Schools are preparing for the axe to fall on their IT budgets after years of ring-fenced Government investment.

A study of almost 1,400 schools conducted by the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA) found that only 58% of primary schools and 51% of secondary schools were planning to maintain IT spending at their current levels.

Schools often keep desktops for a very long time, whereas in industry we tend to get rid of them pretty quickly

"There's less money in the system," Ray Barker, director of BESA told PC Pro. "The big issue is in the past 10 years the Government has been giving ring-fenced funds for technology in schools. The Government has started to ease off that ring-fencing."

Although seven out of ten schools feel they have adequate computer equipment for classrooms and teachers, Barker predicts that refresh cycles are likely to become more protracted as schools have less money to spend on new hardware.

"There is still money available, but it [hardware refreshes] won't happen all at once," he said. "Schools can't afford to do that."

Instead, schools will build IT spending into their three-year budgets and potentially hold on to ageing equipment for longer. "Schools often keep desktops for a very long time, whereas in industry we tend to get rid of them pretty quickly," Barker added.

Lack of digital content

Although there are more computers in schools than ever before, the survey highlighted a lack of teaching materials to use with them. Just under half of primary school ICT leaders felt they were well resourced in terms of digital content, with that figure falling to 32% in secondary schools.

The provision of wireless networks in schools was also deemed inadequate. Although 75% of primary schools and 92% of secondaries have access to wireless networks, teachers complained of insufficient bandwidth. The average secondary school network offers 31Mbits/sec, but ICT leaders said at least 68Mbits/sec was necessary to meet their needs.

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