Schools save millions of pounds through use of ICT

Roger Broadie,

On the 2nd Dec 2010 snow closed thousands of schools in England. Across Newcastle, Yorkshire, Essex, Croydon, Surrey and Hampshire this amounted to 3364 schools. With schools also closed in other areas for which figures are not available the actual total closed was higher than this.

School budgets are provided to enable them to educate the pupils. If the school is closed due to snow or for other reasons, the money wasted every day is on average £5998 per primary school and £26718 per secondary school. (DCSF 2008/09 school statistics). Across the 3364 schools known to be closed on this day, the money wasted if the pupils are not being educated amounts to £31.33 million.

However schools that have invested in learning platforms, that teachers and pupils can access from home, can replicate online many of the normal functions of the school. Teachers can set work and put up learning resources for pupils to use, pupils can submit work through the platform, teachers and pupils can communicate by email, and pupils can collaborate and discuss through online forums. The platform can be used for curriculum work, extra-curricular work and activities, and social engagement.

Currently in around 10% of schools in England, 80%-100% of the teachers are using learning platforms to support work in class and at home, and for school administration. (BESA learning platform review May 2009). This 10% of schools in the areas where snow closed schools will have saved at least £3 million from being wasted, just on the 2nd Dec.

The financial investment these schools make in their learning platforms is of the order of £10,000 per year for a secondary school and £5000 per year for a primary school. Working from these cost estimates, the break-even point at which the cost of the learning platforms is less than the money wasted through inability to educate pupils when a school has to close is 0.83 of a day closed per primary school and only 0.37 of a day closed per secondary school.

As many of these schools had also been closed on 1st Dec, and many remained closed on the 3rd Dec, there is a very clear cost-benefit case to insist that all schools start to make effective use of learning platforms, in order that pupils can continue to be educated if the school has to close.

It is also worthy of note that once a whole school starts to make effective use of online platforms and systems, 12 areas of benefit have been identified by research done by the Institute of Education amongst schools using learning platforms. These areas of benefit include significant cost and time savings as well as improvements in the quality of interactions that promote learning.

Previous approach:
Schools that have not implemented online platforms, or where the school leaders have not effectively managed the changes necessary to get all teachers and pupils using the platform that is installed, have no way of educating pupils when they cannot attend school - beyond asking them to use any books or other learning resources the school has provided that they have at home.