ICT and school budgets

Last week’s article in the TES magazine (Cheques and balances – one school’s struggle to stay out of the red) rather re-inforces my belief that we have two kinds of secondary schools in the UK – those that ‘get’ ICT and those that don’t. The school they featured appears to allocate a paltry annual sum to their ICT systems and the article makes no mention at all of the impact ICT could have in increasing learning.

The central issue is using ICT to re-balance teaching and learning. There are schools where pupils are spending much more time on productive learning for a very similar time input by teachers, because they have online opportunities to access and engage in learning. The school featured appears to be only concerned by what happens in the classroom.

I’ve been writing about this at

http://www.broadieassociates.co.uk/page1/page26/page26.html so won’t go into details here, except to wonder why it is that quite a lot of school leaders don’t ‘get’ ICT. I suspect it is because they are focused on their job of ‘providing education’ and not on how young people are now interacting and learning. Many of their pupils will be online, through their phones or home computers or friends computers, regardless of what provision the school is making. If they decide to chat to friends about their homework they can. If they want to look up some learning resources they can. If the school was talking to their pupils about how they can best learn, maybe they would start to appreciate this.

If the school was using an online platform effectively there would be a budget line to support this. Not much in the greater scheme of things, perhaps £50K annually from their revenue budget to pay for support of whatever online platforms and systems they use and development of them. This is just 1.25% of what the school is spending on staffing, yet it could create so many opportunities for the teachers to be more effective and to use time better, in admin as well as teaching, and hence enable perhaps more of a reduction in staffing costs. Not to mention the savings the school will make on paper alone.

Of course there will also be some capital expenditure for the school network, teachers’ laptops etc. But if the Head has not realised how vital it is for the school to be networked, if only for the improved communication and administration impacts, heaven help them!

When the TES starts to publish articles urging schools to look at these sorts of opportunities, maybe I can stop worrying. Until then the educational offering gap between schools that do get it and those that don’t will continue to grow. This is a new kind of postcode lottery in schools, one that is entirely the responsibility of the school leaders.

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