Buying printers for schools

Did you know that the average secondary school uses more than one million sheets of A4 paper a year? That’s just one of the extraordinary statistics that emerged on the cost-cutting blog started by Microsoft’s UK education team at BETT 2010.

Buying printers for schools

Printing costs for paper and consumables are one of the biggest drains on ICT expenditure in schools, and in many establishments this has yet to be brought under control.

That’s before you get to the disparate hardware purchases, the dodgy leasing contracts and those school visitors whose arrival brings fear and anger in equal measures: the sharp-suited photocopier salesmen. The total cost is said to represent the biggest bill next to staffing.

In fact, many schools couldn’t even tell you what their total printing costs are; they simply don’t know. In these schools, the hardware, maintenance and consumables come under a range of budgets and departments and often there’s no one person to catch sight of all the invoices.

Rather than hide your head in the sand, now is the time to seize control: it’s a huge opportunity to make the sorts of savings that could protect your school in these days of spending cuts.

The good news is that it’s easy to find out about what’s happening – simply talk to other schools and colleges, particularly new or remodelled BSF (Building Schools for the Future) schools that have tried radical new solutions, as well as companies with expertise and local authority advisers. Between them, they can provide you with everything you need to know.

The view from the customer

Milton Keynes College, a further education establishment that currently has 33,000 enrolments, is at the top “enterprise” end of the education sector. It services up to 5,000 students and 1,500 staff on two sites, while its outside commitments include community-based centres and 13 prisons.

“There was no strategy until about three years ago,” says Neil Sperring, IT support manager at the college.

Since going out to tender for its printing services, however, the college has brought its total number of printers down from around 200 to 60, and is now using Canon’s uniFLOW software so it has moved from simple accounting – knowing the number of printouts created – to full print management.

Students and staff have an individual ID number (and will soon have their own swipe cards), which they use to pick up their work from any printer. This is known as “follow me” printing and is an emerging trend in schools, particularly those going through BSF projects.

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