The impact of technology investment in most organisations can be measured by changes in outputs and/or revenue. But for schools, the impact of an increase in technology spending is much harder to measure. Companies can more readily justify their expenditure by pointing to tangible outcomes, whereas schools struggle to make a clear connection between an increase in access to IT and improved learning outcomes for pupils, or improved resilience against failures and more effective teaching.
Over the past year, we have seen a rising pressure to increase the provision of IT in schools. This has led to more schools looking for practical methods of measuring the quality within the service they receive for the money spent. This is no simple feat, as the impact of IT upon the business of teaching and learning is largely intangible and difficult to trace to any specific hardware or software. However, by examining the structure and operation of their services against data gathered from their own staff and students, as well as from independent analysis, it is possible for schools to identify where value for money is being achieved – and where it is not. This assessment of IT service versus spend is no small task and often requires external help to obtain the specialist knowledge and latest data on what constitutes ‘quality’ in IT services.
Alongside concerns over how to substantiate higher value investment decisions, an increased reliance upon technology brings with it the looming spectre of higher profile IT failures. Achieving confidence that resilience is built into IT operations, systems and skills requires a clear understanding of how IT disaster recovery is budgeted, planned and monitored as part of your overall business continuity planning.
Our experience over the last year has been that, despite increased investment, some schools are still falling foul of avoidable data loss or experiencing breaches in safeguarding, whether through internal equipment or human failures, or through the rise in specific viruses such as ransomware. This year, in addition to supporting disaster recovery planning, we have worked with more schools wanting to assess their resilience against the revised Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance. Specifically, we have seen an upswing in schools conducting an associated gap analysis between their current filtering arrangements and those offered by the market leaders. This often results in obtaining external expertise to benefit from the experience of other schools, as well as to understand the features and benefits of systems and the complex process of planning and procurement.
Alongside changes in legislative guidance, the increase in phishing and hacking has also led to an increased concern among schools regarding their cyber security. Penetration testing, Web or device application security and social engineering testing are recurring themes and services that we are being asked to provide.
The above trends are moving schools toward a situation where the impact of IT spending is more measurable, however many are yet to make the specific connection between this and improvements in teaching and learning. Working closely with several schools this year, we have developed a structured programme in which we are able to provide evidence of the impact that technology has upon learner progress. Through iterative coaching and mentoring, underpinned by comprehensive measurement and reporting, we have been providing Headteachers with evidence of the technology that works with their staff and students. By encouraging teachers to experiment with devices, cloud platforms and web-based applications, in a controlled manner relevant to their lesson planning, we have spent this year providing written evidence of tangible improvements in learner progress.
For an informal discussion about your plans for IT investment and how to measure the impact in your school, come and see us on STAND 48 at the BSA Conference 2017, or click the button below.