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The tide is turning

Valerie Thomson is Chief Executive of the e-Learning Foundation, a UK charity that aims to reduce the effect of the digital devide by working with schools, parents and other stakeholders.

The scale of the capital budget cuts that schools have suffered in the past year could make BETT 2012 a challenging show. Yet increasing demand for technology to support teaching and learning continues to grow apace from learners, parents and many teachers. The tide is turning for Government policy too as Ministers at the Department grasp the importance of technology in terms of parental engagement, closing the attainment gap and employability skills. Watch this space for announcements!

So where will the money come from?  The truth is that the options for schools are limited. But there are solutions out there, and schools have to bite the bullet on their priorities and be prepared to do things differently. Here are 5 things schools can do to make sure their ICT investment doesn’t go backwards:

  1. Consider leasing or subscription based arrangements (e.g. Google Chrome)
  2. Involve parents in an e-learning programme where pupils get their own device part funded by the school and part funded by the parents via a voluntary donation
  3. Deploy some of your Pupil Premium where parents are unable to make a contribution
  4. Apply to the e-Learning Foundation for a small grant
  5. As more pupils have their own device, start closing down your ICT Suites and transfer the savings into 1:1 provision and a network upgrade.

And in answer to your questions:

Is it hard work?  Yes, but the e-Learning Foundation can take some of the administration burden away by collecting the donations for you and handling all enquiries from parents

Will it make your school budget go further?  Yes, typically by a factor of 500%

Is it sustainable year after year?  Yes, and there are schools that are now in their 10th year of working in partnership with their parents to provide pupils with the ICT resources they need

Will it help you close the attainment gap in your school?  Yes, ICT and parental engagement are proven approaches to improving the academic achievements of children from low income families (check out the recent Sutton Trust report on the “Pupil Premium toolkit”)

Can I use my Pupil Premium to make up for budget cuts elsewhere?  No, this money is for the most disadvantaged children in society and it is their right to benefit from it. Schools are required to make public what they spent this funding on. A school that deprives these children of the benefits that this funding can bring because of their reluctance to tighten their belt elsewhere will be accountable to their parents and the wider world.

Who can help us?  Becta is no longer around, and your Local Authority may only have limited capacity to support you. The e-Learning Foundation is a small charity but keen to help as many schools as possible so get in touch and tell us what you have in mind.

Visit the e-Learning Foundation’s website at: http://www.e-learningfoundation.com/

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