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and we deal with a broad spectrum of schools. That’s really good for those schools, because we can share their experiences, while still respecting their confidentiality,” he explained.

The new curriculum Recent changes to the IT curriculum further heighten the importance of up- to-date technology in schools. The government plans to place greater emphasis on the technical side of ICT, such as software development and programming, rather than just the understanding and use of it. Robinson says that in some cases schools will require new systems. “I think some schools will have to invest in upgrading or purchasing new kit,” he outlined. With public finances still under pressure, this points to a continuing need for third- party investment in school IT. “I think the adoption of one-to-one

schemes is going to grow over the next few years,” said White. “Although the economy is recovering, it’s very slow and we’re not going to see a return to material surplus funds that schools can go and deploy in upgrading all their technology. So I do think that, whichever party is in power after the next election, there is a likelihood they’re going to have to leverage third- party investment for school IT.” Schools themselves are also becoming

the school is commited to maintaining their investment in ICT, yet also aims to make as efficient use of it as possible. “Many schools are looking towards giving every pupil an iPad. We looked at that but we decided not to do it because we don’t believe the evidence is there yet that iPads by themselves really improve the level of education,” said Robinson.

New strategy The school’s financing deal with Syscap has a level of flexibility which allows them to adapt to changing circumstances. The school can invest in new technology and upgrade their equipment within the framework of the agreement. “We give schools the ability to add on and upgrade technology during the course of the agreement, as well as the ability to swap it out as demands within the school change. We will also assist with the disposal at the end of it, to ensure that schools are compliant,” explained White. This approach is driven by lifecycle

management, so that a school can predict their likely IT costs more accurately, while still maximising their investment in technology through innovative use

of their recurring budgets. “The useful life of a laptop is effectively three years. With flexible finance we can pay for it over those three years rather than having to pay for it all in the first year,” added Robinson. “In an ideal world you would replace a third of your IT fleet every year, so you’re always keeping up-to-date as kit ages.” This may vary according to the type

of kit and the frequency of usage, an important consideration in terms of flexible financing. A school may want to invest in tablets and laptops for pupils over a much shorter timeframe than the servers that run the school network for example, while some departments may require particularly sophisticated equipment. “In a design environment you might have a one-year scheme for devices, because they have to be cuting-edge, and state-of-the art,” said White. Technology may be used to run the school or to deliver the curriculum; White believes that Syscap’s experience in these areas is invaluable in helping schools identify priority areas for investment and geting the right deal. “We’re experienced in a lot of the challenges that schools face

more business-oriented in the way they operate, in the sense that they are looking to work more efficiently and gain more control over their own budgets. Recent reforms have removed Academy schools from local authority control, giving them freedom to control expenditure, and Robinson believes flexible finance is an important tool in the management of their ICT budget. “When you bring business skills into it, you're looking at how you can make your cash work beter for you. I think flexible finance is one of the ways we can do that,” he said. While White agreed that flexible

finance has an important role to play in IT investment, he stresses that it is not a catch-all solution. “This is about prudent adoption, ensuring that IT investment adheres to budgets, that the school is working within the appropriate regulatory regime and that they went through the appropriate authorisation process,” he continued. “This is about strategic alignment and understanding the school’s vision. We identify areas where we can add value and help schools achieve their learning objectives.” ET

School image: © Benis Arapovic |

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