School leaders attending last weekend’s NAHT annual conference in Liverpool called for better and faster IT support and equipment for Welsh schools.
Delegates at the conference heard Mick Brookes, general secretary of NAHT call for an inquiry into unscrupulous practice by some ICT companies whom he accused of ripping off schools by taking advantage of the lack of expertise that schools can draw on in sourcing ICT equipment. Mr Brookes also advocated the launch of a Which?-style list of reputable school suppliers of ICT which would help schools make the right choices.
NAHT member and head of Coedcae School Llanelli, Pete Spencer said: “We've been lucky. We've done a lot of the sourcing of equipment ourselves and benefitted from excellent advice from the local authority and our own business manager. Doing the work ourselves has saved a lot of money.
“The biggest problem I have faced in putting together a large project is getting technical advice on individual items. Are you buying the right thing, will the kit do the right thing and are you buying something of a higher spec than you need? This is where I feel schools are at greatest risk of being ripped off. Project management is often an area where heads lack support.”
Mr Spencer is also concerned that anticipated funding cuts in public services will make life even more difficult, saying: “Keeping up with basic IT needs – let along taking it further – will be difficult for many schools in this economic climate. But if we are to create 21st century learning then good provision of modern technology is essential and to achieve this we need more bespoke technical and project management support and more money.”
Anna Brychan, Director of NAHT Cymru emphasised the importance of ICT and e-learning in achieving some of the Welsh Assembly Government's most urgent policy aims in education, stating: “This is a critical area for our members. They need the advice and the resources – to get the right equipment at the right price as quickly as possible. The pay offs are huge. ICT will oil the wheels of the School Effectiveness Framework, enable better 14-19 collaboration and make sure that schools use the technology that can engage young learners.”