The Guardian today wrote an article about school funding, which was prompted by a new Audit Commission report ‘Valuable lessons’. The message was that “hundreds of millions of pounds are being wasted”.
I was a bit alarmed to see that amongst the savings, they were quoted as saying that there’s a potential £110M to be saved from ICT budgets:
That shocked me – because that implies that over 15% of the ICT budget is mis-spent.
Fortunately, when I went to the original Audit Commission report, I discovered that three small letters had been left out of the Guardian report. They were N, O and N. ie the Audit Commission said schools could save £110M from non-ICT budgets.
So, having got over that heart attack moment, I then started to look through the report to see what it did say about ICT spending in schools.
Firstly, I looked in the summary for head teachers, which mentions ICT just twice :
Regular reviews of high-cost goods and services, such as administration and ICT, will reveal whether they are meeting the school’s aims and objectives, and whether services are meeting the performance levels expected. The reviews will also help the school with decisions about future suppliers. Different options for service provision can be considered and your school’s governing body has an important role
…schools can improve economy and efficiency by ensuring that they have considered…the deployment on non-education staff. In one example, a school employed a full-time ICT technician and generated income from this by contracting with other schools.
With a third reference to the Becta Best Value guidance for procurement information
So then I looked at the main report…
There are a pair of charts, showing growth in expenditure over the last 4 years – which shows that in both primary and secondary schools, ‘ICT Learning Resources’ has been one of the areas of spend with lowest growth, and with a small group of overall spend.
And then a single sentence about the fact that only half of schools review their ICT investment in relation to improving learning and raising standards (Para 75) and finally a plug for using e-procurement to purchase (not just ICT, but lots of things. However, they noted that they have not analysed whether it is more cost-effective).
It appears that the Audit Commission don’t see ICT as a major opportunity to achieve more efficiency and effectiveness, compared to catering, cleaning and caretaking, and non-ICT learning resources. And they applaud the schools that are showing entrepreneurial spirit by things such as sharing ICT technicians across schools. Which is nice to know if you’re a network manager in a school, and you’ve got a BSF steamroller heading your way! Download the report and send it to your head (appropriately highlighted!)