Extra government cash will drive initiatives to boost schools' IT use

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Extra government cash will drive initiatives to boost schools' IT use

Daniel Thomas
IT spending in the UK's education sector is expected to reach just over £2.9bn in 2004, a rise of 8% on last year's £2.7bn, according to the Computer Weekly IT Expenditure Report, produced by Kew Associates.

The investment will be largely driven by hardware upgrades, the research said, which will account for 34% of all investment, compared to 17% for software and 20% for services.

Education and skills secretary Charles Clarke has promised that government funding for new IT, including matched funding from local authorities, will rise to £920m by 2005-2006.

The funding will give broadband connections to all schools by 2006; deliver digital resources into the classroom and lecture theatres through projects such as Curriculum Online; ensure that more teachers have personal access to computers; and help teachers and teaching assistants use new technology to deliver higher standards, Clarke said.

One of the key areas for IT spending in schools will be interactive whiteboards - large, touch-sensitive boards connected to a computer and projector which use video, animation, graphics and sound to enhance teaching. At the Bett Education and Technology Show in January, Clarke announced a further £25m funding for the technology.

The spending drive comes at a time when staff working at every level of education are becoming increasingly interested in the IT systems available to improve teaching and help them run their organisations more efficiently.

However, Doug Brown, divisional manager for IT in schools at the Department for Education and Skills, said it will take time for teachers to fully exploit the value of IT.

"The majority of teachers, including the most innovative, require more knowledge of and confidence with IT," he told delegates at Bett.

The government's Laptops For Teachers initiative is designed to improve levels of confidence with IT. The scheme, which launched in 2002, aims to give two thirds of all teachers access to a computer by 2006. About 100,000 laptops have already been distributed, according to government figures.

In the university sector, spending is focused on enterprise resource planning systems to handle the student administration process and improve management information.

Some higher education institutions are using out-of-the-box human resources and accounting modules from suppliers such as SAP and Oracle, but the software firms have also created university-specific modules to meet increasing demand.

Many implementations, such as an Oracle system at Liverpool John Moores University and a SAP system at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, have been successful, but one high-profile failure at Cambridge University showed that academic institutions, like mainstream businesses, need to change processes to make ERP systems work.

In 2001, Cambridge University's "amateur" management by committees of academics was criticised in reports on the bungled introduction of an Oracle accounting system.

The system, part of a project called Capsa, cost more than £9m - almost twice the original budget.

A review of the Capsa project by two academics from other universities concluded that it had been an "unmitigated" failure.

How the report was produced

Information on total IT spending is collected annually from more than 60,000 UK IT budget holders on Computer Weekly's circulation list. This is supplemented by more detailed IT spending information from 5,000 budget holders surveyed each year. Additional information is sourced from the Office for National Statistics and the Treasury.

How to buy the report

The Computer Weekly IT Expenditure Report, produced by Kew Associates, analyses spending in 66 industry sectors covering 30 spend categories. These categories encompass a comprehensive range of different types of hardware, software and services. A series of reports is available containing varying levels of detail. Prices start at £495. For more information, contact Georgina Tucker at Computer Weekly or telephone 01895-632163.

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