IT spending by UK schools rose for the first time since 2009 this year, according to research from British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).
In July, BESA surveyed of 1,317 UK schools (766 primary and 551 secondary) on their spending and budgetary plans. The survey report found that, on average, schools spent £246.5 million on ICT, an increase of 2.1% compared to 2011.
Primary schools spent an average of £12,720 on ICT, an increase of 2.3% compared to last year, and secondary schools spent an average of £56,560 on ICT, up 1.9% from last year.
Last year, by contrast, ICT budgets in primary schools had fallen 4.1%, and in secodary schools by 6.8%.
-4.1% primary -6.8% secondary.
BESA attributes this increase in IT spending to greater confidence among schools that they will have enough to spend. The previous, Labour government had ring fenced ICT budgets for schools, insisting that they invest a certain amount in IT facilities. The current government removed that ring fence, leading some schools to believe they would not have enough money to spend on IT – but that fear has abated, BESA says.
“For years, schools panicked and thought that their budgets had been cut, so they cut down on expenditure,” said Caroline Wright, director at BESA. “Now they’re starting to realise … they have more money than they thought they had.”
Investment in IT facilities in schools is linked the ability of those schools to provide adequate IT education. However, Wright believes the recent decline in students taking IT-related A levels cannot be attributed to the dip in IT spending seen in the last few years.
“Schools have invested in a significant amount of technology over recent years, especially when funding was ring fenced, and with the government’s eLearning credit funding,” Wright said. “While it is important for schools to continue to invest in ICT to avoid a digital divide between schools, BESA doesn’t feel like this is the only contributing factor.”
School ICT budgets peaked in 2009 when equivalent expenditure was estimated at £275 million. By 2014, BESA says that nearly half of the all of schools surveyed anticipate more than 50% of pupil-time will be exposed to teaching and learning through technology.