It's half-term. Although for most of the school it will come as a relief, as the corridors and classrooms empty rapidly, for many of you, it will be a busy week, as you finally get the chance to do some of those ICT projects that can't be done during term-time. And it is also a time to grab a chance for long-term thinking, because your day is less likely to begin with 20 urgent 'must do' requests.
How do you make sure that you've got the senior management support for your future projects, now that every bit of funding is previous? One of the things I've been spending time thinking about is how to help you to ensure that your contribution to your school is recognised - especially with the risk of being seen as a 'cost centre'.
Recently, I've been working on an idea for a simple letter that could help get more support from your head teacher - something from you that any head* would love to see on their desk when half-term is over.
How would your head feel if this was waiting for them next Monday?
Dear Head Teacher,
The big thing at the moment is cost saving. You and the governors are looking closely at every budget heading. That being so I want to draw attention to how much we in your IT team can help.
Usually, I know it’s easy for people to think of IT in terms of spending rather than saving – more machines, more software. I’d like you to know, though, that we really can save money – for the whole school, not just for us in IT.
So, for example, we’ve been looking at virtualising our servers. Whether you know what that means technically doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that when we do it, we’ll need fewer humming boxes in the server room – a lot fewer in fact. That means we’ll spend less money on replacing them, and on the contract for supporting them and we’ll use less electricity on running them and keeping them cool. I’ve talked to another school about this and they’ve worked out server virtualisation will save between £15,000 and £23,000 a year. You know you could spend that money very productively on staff – or it might even save someone’s job. Now I don’t know whether we’ll save as much as that, but I know we’ll at least get somewhere towards it. I’ll be happy to give you the figures if you’d like me to spend some time working them out.
Then there’s paper. Have you any idea how much money this school spends on paper each year? And I don’t just mean buying the stuff, I mean total spend on copying and printing. I know in other schools figures like £40,000 and £50,000 - and over a million sheets of paper - are being quoted. We’ve done our bit, working to get as much as we can up there on the network – student work, assignments, information for parents, reports. We could do a lot more of that, but I have to say that getting the full benefit depends on all of us changing our habits. We all, staff, students, have to start thinking of sharing documents on the network instead of printing them out. Evidence in other schools is that it’s difficult to persuade people to do that, and frankly it needs a strong lead from the top – rules, if you like, about what’s to be printed and what’s not, and close control of printers and copiers. The reward could run to a five figure impact on the school budget.
In schools we’ve come to think that because staffing is far the biggest budget item, that’s where you make savings, and anything else is just tinkering.
Well, we’re here to say that some of the cost savings we in IT can achieve – and there are others besides the ones I’ve described here - are a good bit more than tinkering. So, please can we have some time to examine these issues with you to see how they might work in our school for our students?
Your school ICT team
You can read the main Top ICT Money Saving Tips article to learn more about the savings ideas above, and other ways that ICT can help save money in school budgets
* Some head teachers have already had the chance to see this letter, and they thought they'd definitely see it as a good contribution towards helping with their budget worries.