Every business is faced with budget cuts and it is easy to see why we sometimes forget that our schools face the same business constraint. It is understandable that our schools are looking for a good deal when it comes to IT and providers.

I read not so long ago, via a report commissioned by the British Educational Supplier Association, that schools budget £619m for ICT with £95m spent on software and digital content. Those are amazing numbers on the face of it, but think about the numbers. I had a look, and there are 8.56m pupils in education in 2016 according to the Department of Education. This is a rise of 121,000 pupils since 2015. Numbers are growing.

Effectively that is £72 per pupil for computer equipment and software. This isn’t taking into account the equipment required for staff and affiliated organisations, making this number realistically a lot less.

Choosing an IT provider is tough for schools. Once they have set up their networks, they need regular maintenance and support quickly. Not all teachers are IT experts and glitches can make everything grind to a halt. Repairs are critical and most importantly urgent.

So how do you choose an IT provider you can trust? Here are a few handy tips from us:

  • Talk to others – word of mouth is always a great way of sifting out the good, and the bad, from previous experiences of others. Don’t be put off if a new company doesn’t have many references yet – sometimes you may find a smaller company can provide a more bespoke, personable service.
  • Do they understand your requirements? When you speak to potential providers make sure that they listen to you and understand what you need from them. Don’t get drawn into sales talk. It’s all about finding a solution that’s best for your school.
  • Point of contact – Find out who is the best person to speak to, preferably someone who understands the education arena, and build on that relationship as it makes it so much easier when you need to call them out for repairs and servicing urgently!
  • Bespoke is the way – Equipment should be customisable to your needs, be it increased memory or features that don’t come as standard. Every school is different.
  • Continual improvement – Your IT provider should be able to advise on how to keep costs effective and suggest appropriate improvements to aide efficiency.

My top tip to keep costs down for schools is to look at refurbished equipment. You may find that you get twice the punch for less money. Refurbished equipment is usually up spec’d and updated to the latest operating systems if that is what you are after. Good providers still offer standard warranties with refurbished equipment, so you don’t even have to worry about that side of things either! It’s a no-brainer if you ask me.