IT industry must stop over-selling to schools

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Technology experts have issued a call to the IT industry to stop attempting to sell ‘big IT’ into British schools after an expert panel agreed that the education industry is not receiving the advice and support which it needs. The industry should focus instead on ‘smart IT’ and partner with schools to deliver appropriate, affordable and reliable technology which meets their tight budgets.

Recent research has found that there will be a further decline in ICT budgets in 2011, with the average primary school expected to spend £12,200 on ICT, while for secondary schools this figure is £56,200.

Despite these cuts, however, the research has found that many schools are spending money on technology which they simply don’t need.

Education consultant and former Government advisor Margaret Coleman said: “There certainly exists a trend of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, as schools strive to keep up with the IT offerings of their local rivals as opposed to thinking about what will most accurately meet their individual requirements. What is most frequently absent is a bespoke strategy: schools need an advisory partner, not just a smart sales presentation.”

Duncan Fitz-Gibbons, Chair of Governors at Wharton Primary School agreed that many schools are being exploited: “Too often it proves to be the case that the supplier with the best sales pitch will secure the business. Schools become reliant on a single supplier and often do not question additional money they are spending with them. Recently, for example, we found that we could save £25,000 across just two transactions, simply by re-evaluating if the offerings we were being sold were really in-line with what we needed.”

Independent IT expert Jon Collins underlined that schools should not overlook the systems which they already have on-site. He said: “There is a fascination within IT of organisations constantly striving to upgrade to the latest and greatest. More often than not schools will find that by making a wise investment of, say, 20% of a new system, they’ll find they make the most of the 80% of legacy equipment they have already spent their money on.”

Paul Donovan from Netgear said: “Technology should without doubt prove to be an enabler within schools, whereby teachers do not have the creativity of their teaching methods restricted by unreliable or unsuitable technology. Children now enter the schooling system with an often inherent familiarity with computers – many are comfortable at a PC before they can read or write. However, unrestricted learning also means providing simple, effective technology which does not provide an unnecessary drain on resources, both in terms of budget and of staff hours in managing the network.

"It’s vital that teachers do not fall for the slickest sales pitch. The last thing schools need is to be over-sold the latest ‘bells and whistles’ systems which may hamper them in the long run.”

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