A Bursar's IT Six Pack

Posted on: 25 May 2018

Are you getting best value from your IT investment?

2018 ISBA IT Survey: only 1 in 3 Bursars think their IT is good value

The ISBA IT Survey 2018, in association with the ISC Digital Strategy Group and RM Education, clearly shows change is needed in the approach to school IT for the majority of UK Independent Schools.

Survey key themes and recommendations for improvement were summarised and debated in discussion panels at last week’s ISBA Annual Conference in Brighton.

Unique scope, record response

Uniquely, the survey set out to compare and contrast the views of the three key school stakeholders necessary for successful IT, to give a whole-school picture: Bursar, IT (representing the IT team) and Academic (representing teachers’ use of technology).

A record response of 406 schools, split equally between day and boarding, covering prep, senior and all-through schools, provided a representative data set.

Underutilisation: A value-for-money crisis

At a median spend of a substantial £400 per pupil on IT (equipment, licencing, maintenance, support and related salaries), set against a bleak picture of IT underutilisation in the classroom, it is not surprising that 2 in 3 Bursars think their school IT is not good value.

The survey shows collaborative tools (O365, G-Suite) are only being used in 1 in 3 schools, IT is used only to project/display PowerPoint slides in 2 in 3 lessons, and 2/3rds of schools aren’t confident in their teachers’ ability to enhance learning outcomes using existing IT skills.

Why the poor classroom utilisation?

The survey provides some useful clues:
- 2 in 3 schools report IT reliability issues
- Just 5% of the IT budget is spent on teacher CPD; only ¼ of schools provide teachers appropriate CPD
- 45% of schools’ teachers can’t access IT at home for lesson prep/marking
- Teachers are only part of their school IT Strategy in 1 in 4 schools
- The majority of the teaching body are unaware of IT vision and strategy in 4 out of 5 schools.
- IT Strategy, where present, is often just a rolling replacement plan

Security and Safeguarding are a concern

Only 1 in 3 Bursars were very confident their data is secure and only being accessed by authorised people. 1 in 4 schools leave patching until the holidays (or worse). 7 in 10 schools are yet to independently audit their systems for hacking vulnerabilities.

Although conducted during February 2018 (rather than May), the survey shows only 1 in 10 schools teachers were confident in how to manage student data once GDPR comes into effect.

Despite typically have EAL student populations of 10%-30%, only 1 in 4 schools have online safeguarding solutions that work in their students’ first languages.

Only 1 in 3 schools have online safety proactive alerting in place.

“Bursar’s IT Six-Pack” – ISC’s recipe for improvement

The survey provides a clear mandate for change in the approach to school IT, for the majority of independent schools. These were summarised by Ian Phillips, Chair of ISC Digital Strategy Group, as the “Bursar’s IT Six-Pack” for successful school IT:

  1. Clear, well-understood IT vision; teachers at heart of IT Strategy
  2. External help to supplement in-house skills
  3. Spend >20% of IT budget on training teachers to use it
  4. Use Office365 / G-Suite for email, storage & collaboration
  5. Resilient, fast internet, strong wired & wireless infrastructure
  6. Secure and safeguard data, systems and children

Example technology visions, IT strategy templates and skills matrices for a range of school types are to follow from the ISC Digital Strategy Group.

You can download a copy of the ISBA IT Survey presentation here.

Alan Hodgin Independent Sector Lead, RM Education
Ian Phillips Chair of ISC Digital Strategy Group; Director of Computing ICT, Habs’ Boys’

About ISC Digital Strategy Group

The ISC Digital Strategy group is composed of experts with representatives drawn from the ISC member associations and provides independent advice to Senior Management teams on a range of ICT related issues.