Tuesday, 29 January 2013

My BETT 2013 Seminar: Governors & ICT

Steve Warburton’s BETT 2013 session, ‘Everything governors should know about ICT but might be ‘afraid’ to ask’, will be held in Learn Live Theatre C from 15.15 -16.00 on Thursday 31 January 2013

 What school governors should know about ICT, but are afraid to ask

Governorship is built upon the principle that anybody can be a school governor. It’s a role that does not require
professional qualifications, A*-Cs in GCSE maths and English, serving an apprenticeship or even re-election in some categories. It is actually a triumph of priceless, passionate and committed volunteerism in a world where there is a price-tag on everything.

Schools spend around £250m a year on ICT (Source: British Educational Suppliers’ Association ICT (BESA) in UK State Schools 2012). Often it is the most significant element of a school’s nonbuilding capital expenditure and, says BESA, as a percentage of the budget it is increasing year-on-year. Governors sign the cheque for that expenditure but often know very little about ICT, especially in an educational setting.

Why should governors know something about ICT?
Whenever I’m asked what a school governor does, I try and summarise the role as ‘challenging and supporting the school’s leadership to help them develop the best possible school for the children who go there.’ I think it is very difficult to fulfil both aspects of this role – the challenge and the support - in relation to ICT without understanding some key principles about ICT in education. What follow are some examples of questions
gathered from governors in my own recent survey. These are all questions that they had not asked at governing
body meetings when they discussed the issue of ICT expenditure and use.

How much does it really cost?
Issues here include not only the initial outlay involved in the expenditure, but also total cost of ownership
(TCO) of licensing, service, support and consumables over the life of the equipment or software purchased. There is also the ‘what will it cost if you delay or don’t spend at all?’ question, either in terms of negative effects on your school,  or potential increased future costs.

I saw the Panorama TV programme in September. So are all leases to be avoided?
The Panorama programme shone a spotlight on companies that set out to take advantage of schools and tie them to extremely disadvantageous contracts for technology equipment. Schools were tempted by ‘too good to be true’ deals that were indeed, too good! 149 schools were duped, but they were preyed upon by companies who knew about the increasing strictures on school spending and the demise of technology-focused
funding since 2010. But not all leases are bad; schools need to know of the very clear and helpful guidelines released by BECTA pre-2010, and since by the DfE.

Does it make a difference to the achievement of pupils?
This is a crucial question for governors who are required by Ofsted to answer the ‘impact’ question for all that happens in school. Research across the last two decades suggests that in particular situations, the use of ICT has had a direct and significant impact on children’s achievement, but this significant impact cannot necessarily be repeated across all schools in any situation. Even if the impact cannot be directly and conclusively proven, the question has to be asked, ‘what would have happened to achievement if we had not spent money on ICT in the classroom?’

Other questions include:
Does it have an impact on pupils’ futures?
What’s more important, infrastructure or devices?
We spent a lot of money on ICT in 2007, why is the headteacher asking for as much again in 2012?
Why should teachers have an iPad?
Is it possible to ‘go green’ and save money on ICT?
Will we be able to afford it in the future?
So many questions, that I won’t be afraid to answer on Thursday afternoon of Bett 2013.

Steve Warburton’s session, ‘Everything governors should know about ICT but might be ‘afraid’ to ask’, will be held in Learn Live Theatre C from 15.15 -16.00 on Thursday 31 January 2013

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