Secondary schools squeezing technology budgets

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Secondary schools have devoted less of their budgets to investment in ICT in the last year,according to new figures.

Local Authority run secondary schools dropped the proportion of their overall budgets dedicated to ICT investment by 3%, with investment in ICT falling from 1.37% of the total budget to 1.33%. 

Overall, the total investment by all Local Authority run schools in ICT learning resources fell from £229.9 million in 2009/10, to £219.1 million in in 2010/11.  

School technology budgets are likely to be stretched even further next year, as with inflation running at 5%, this year’s ‘flat’ funding settlement for schools will mean a reduction in real terms.  Schools with average or low proportions of pupils entitled to free school meals will be hardest-hit, as they will not benefit from the increased pupil premium.

Budgets will be under further pressure from a technology price spike, as component shortages resulting from this year’s tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand continue to impact the supply chain. 

Ther figures from Syscap, a leading independent IT finance provider to the education sector, indicate that reducing investment in technology will make it difficult for schools to respond to Ofsted’s recent criticism of the use of ICT in schools, which it said was ‘inadequate’ in a fifth of the secondary schools it inspected. 

Ofsted’s report added to concerns that with GCSE and A Level ICT and Computing entries declining, the UK’s technology skills base could fall behind.  It has also been reported that the Department for Education is developing a new policy on the use of ICT in schools.

Philip White, Chief Executive of Syscap, said: “These figures suggest that with budgets under pressure, secondary schools are cutting back on investment in ICT.  With inflation rapidly eroding the value of this year’s flat budgetary settlement, the balancing act is only going to get even more difficult.

“In these circumstances, schools may be tempted to try to squeeze another year or two of operating life out of dated systems. But that risks leaving IT and computing teachers trying to rise to the challenge of Ofsted’s recent criticisms of ICT teaching in schools with inadequate resources.”

Syscap says that with no immediate prospect of a substantial increase in education funding, schools may need to rethink their technology procurement strategies.  Ofsted’s recent report on the use of technology in schools noted that few schools had properly costed plans in place for future investment in their technology.

School Leadership Today
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