Wednesday, 7 April 2010

When will Schools see a return on their investment in ICT?

In most industries the introduction of ICT has had some impact in reducing operating costs, usually by the reduction of administrative staffing levels through the automation of mundane tasks. However, [Independent] Schools seem to be an exception to this rule. I suspect that most Heads and Governors have asked themselves how the ICT spend keeps going up despite the cost of ICT kit reducing significantly each year and wondered when they are going to see “some return on all this investment”.

The simple answers are that the ICT spend is set to continue and that we are already seeing the return on our ICT investment – it is just that the return is not a direct financial one. I believe that this is for three reasons:
  1. First, the Independent sector has raised the bar in response to increased competition between schools. We are providing - indeed we are now are expected to provide - current and prospective parents with more information, more frequently and faster than ever before. Schools are handling vastly more parental communication than ever before – and this is only set to increase.
  2. Secondly, ICT investment has in effect cushioned the impact of the increased administrative burden that has been imposed on schools during the past fifteen years. Increased external regulation and the perceived threat [real or otherwise] of litigation have meant that school record-keeping and data management is necessarily at unprecedented levels. Schools would have undoubtedly required increased administrative staffing levels if it were not for the automation of these processes through central administrative databases.
  3. Thirdly, teachers are beginning to harness the power of ICT in the classroom finding new and innovative ways to ply their craft to a generation of pupils who are wired very differently to their predecessors.
For an excellent discussion of how Information Technology is reshaping the wider economy see Erik Brynjolfsson and Adam Saunders' Wired for Innovation

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