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ecent analysis by leading ICT finance provider Syscap has found that the number of secondary schools spending

nothing on IT equipment has more than doubled over the last year, while the number spending less than £10 per pupil has also risen by 5%. With ICT budgets under this kind of pressure, some schools are looking towards a flexible finance and leasing option as they try to maintain their investment in IT. “We’re using flexible finance because

we think it offers us a beter business case for financing the school rather than paying for everything in year one,” said Chris Robinson, principal of John Ferneley College Academy Trust. Previously the school had always tended to buy assets outright, but with a flexible finance plan in place, they’re now able to lease the kit and spread the costs of IT spending over a longer period. “If we can spread the costs of our purchases over three years it enables us to manage our cashflow beter,” continued Robinson.

Flexible finance The school has acquired a range of IT devices using this form of financing, including desktop PCs, iPads and eReaders, which are used across the entire curriculum. This is a far cry from as recently as 20 years ago, when many schools had relatively outdated IT equipment. “Schools certainly had technology,

but they were maybe 10-year-old BBC models, or Acorn computers,” said Phillip White, Syscap’s CEO. There has been a significant change in atitude towards IT in education since; motivated in part by recognition that technological literacy is essential to our long-term economic prospects. “Technology is not going away. Its

adoption, its sophistication, is increasing daily. We are living in a technology-driven age,” stressed White. “However, at the moment there is insufficient public sector funding to provide high-quality IT to all schools. Therefore, if there’s insufficient public sector funding, then you need to find an alternative way to fund school IT investment. As technology evolves, the funding mechanisms needed to support technology investment have to evolve as well to reflect the ever-changing nature of demand and the wider financial climate.” This is very much an ongoing process,

as the emergence of new technology can make earlier models quickly seem outdated, making it difficult to predict





TOP: Chris Robinson principal of John Ferneley College Academy Trust ABOVE: Philip White, Syscap's CEO

future IT costs. While no company can insulate anybody from the effects of technological progress, White said that schools can gain some predictability over their IT budgets. “If you take 30 PCs, what we want to be able to do is to say: ‘OK, you’ve got 36 equal payments of X, which breaks down to a cost per month, per device.’ Now, if a school wants to expand, to add another 10 devices, then they know the cost is going to grow

proportionately,” he outlined. Technology has to closely match the

Flexible finance and leasing offers us a beter business case for financing the school than paying for everything in year one.

school’s educational needs, which can vary according to their status and the particular subjects they specialise in. White says his company takes a collaborative approach when working with a school. “Irrespective of the market we’re operating in, our view is that we have to come up with a financial solution that augments rather than hinders a school’s approach to ICT investment – it’s not a one-off event. We invest time up– front to understand the school's strategy, its vision, its ICT strategy, and we try to create something that reflects that,” he explained. In the case of John Ferneley College,

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