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Money in Schools (ICT and generally) aka Vanity Projects

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by , 15th January 2012 at 11:23 AM (3125 Views)
This blog post comes courtesy of a thread elsewhere on Edugeek as well as ideas brought up from one of the schools I support.

I'll start small. A couple of weeks ago, one of my HT's attended training at a local academy. This academy rolled out iPads for all it's pupils. Naturally he liked the look of this but with a diminutive budget, asked what I could do along the same sort of lines but for half a class.
The logistics were easy enough, just under £6k buys 16 ipads, a dock/box/sync/charger thingy and a Macbook Air. That was simple. So, what now? What do they hope to achieve with them? This is something from the start the HT didn't have much of a clue about. It was asked of me, so naturally extended some arms out to the community and some people in the know. Within an hour we had enough information to warrant the cost and make it worthwhile - it would benefit the kids. That's the important bit. We have some shining examples of ICT use in this local area and they're all only too happy to help (Northants BLT)

That's great. So what about that academy? What good would an iPad for all pupils achieve?
Perhaps plenty. It's not a topic I'm entirely worried about or bothered about - I'm sure there's loads they can/can't do with them but they are backed up by a solid infrastructure otherwise. And they are a positive thing for the staff, but I dread to think what some of these kids' handwriting is like after a full term.

That brings me to the thread here that got me wound up. Yes it's an academy but it doesn't mean they should be exempt from "what the hell are you doing" comments. A school who's senior staff want entirely wireless infrastructures, iPads all round etc. The cost is astronomic yet some people are throwing around numbers like £200,000 like it's pocket change. We struggle to get a 5th of that in TOTAL. But this isn't about them/us.

Education is in an absolutely DIABOLICAL state, financially. Every day there's a new headline that x is being cut, y are being sacked and z's pay is frozen. Budgets are shrinking yet we're constantly asking more of our ICT systems. Wages are not rising with inflation yet we are getting more asked of us. The majority of us will happily cope with that, knowing we are doing some good to the pupils who come to our schools. Some however just don't seem satisfied. Some would rather stick two fingers up to any financial shortfalls and urinate money into a vanity project. I will call such things vanity projects because frankly, in the grand scheme of things, what good will they do? What will a school's intake get from this sort of investment when they leave in 6 years time. 6 years is a long time - that initial investment is already old hat, the iPads are already 5 versions out of date, the wireless can't cope because the spectrum isn't large enough and the shopping center next door is disrupting half the usable frequencies. So within the educational span of one of these pupils, the school will have spent another £sillymoneyhere replacing them to keep up.
So what good have they gotten, over the state school down the road with a ICT budget of £30k, a smattering of wireless devices, a largely hard-wired network with VDI or fat clients, where they sit in front of a computer for set parts of the curriculum or in addition to parts of other subjects.
Please, tell me. Because I am struggling to understand if that investment of £200k is going to at least balance out for these kids. It's not, is it?

The moral seems simple to me, but please bear in mind I am quite simple and very black/white. If you're going to keep pissing into the wind like that, remember you have to keep drinking enough..


  1. X-13's Avatar
    Some people have more money than sense.

    Even more so, if it isn't their money.


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