Schools in England and Wales are facing budget cuts for the first time since the late 1980s leading to concerns that the delivery of IT will be hit hard, according to a report commissioned by UK PC builder Stone Group.
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The survey revealed 82% of schools expect to see their funding slashed in real terms over the next fiscal year and 84% said budgetary constraint was the number one concern regarding the provision of IT.
“Failure to respond to the challenges posed by budget cuts will undoubtedly result in a decline in the quality of ICT delivery,” said James Bird, chief executive at Staffordshire-based Stone Group.
“The pressure is now on to consider just how to retain standards with vastly reduced funding,” he added.
The issue says Stone is that in the years since the last cuts in education budgets, reliance on IT in the classroom has grown heavy among teachers and pupils but schools service delivery model remains inflexible.
The vast majority of schools and colleges deliver ICT services internally: 93% of schools provide their own network management; 91% desktop management; application support 90% and 87% manage their own servers.
Internal skills are under pressure and just 14% of respondents said they offer pupils out of hours support, despite the Government’s vision of 24/7 access to schools systems.
Schools need access to services that can “supplement the existing skills,” said the report.
However, just over half of the respondents rely on external providers to deliver some services and their views on the success of such relationships remains mixed.
More than three quarters said a draw back of outsourcing was loss of internal skills, over a half said it would be more expensive long term and 62% said it could result in loss of strategy or direction.
“After years of relying exclusively on internal expertise, it is clear that schools must begin to explore the potential financial benefits offered by external resources,” said the report.