OK, now your school has just been awarded a massive injection of funding. Not too far in the distant future, there will be nice, new, possibly eco-friendly buildings in the grounds of the school…. new furniture, new facilities and new equipment. All the things that teachers and students in the school well-deserve.
All is well, if the whole school is being rebuilt, however, if the new extensions serve to function as ‘add-ons’ then it becomes vital that an effective framework, especially for ICT is developed to ensure that the school as a whole does not fall in to the two-tier trap. Schools without proper planning and a long term strategy risk running into a divide between the new and existing school building.
How does one avoid falling into the pitfalls of a two tier school when receiving a fresh injection of funding in the form of capital investments for new building and extensions? How can I ensure that the budget allowed for infrastructure and equipment in my school is spent in a way that will give my school the maximum returns and best value?
These are just a couple of questions that arise with the changes happening in our schools at the phenomenal rate, thanks to the capital spending available from both the Local Education Authority and Primary Capital Programme from the central government.
Here are some steps to help set a good framework that will benefit the whole school especially when working with limited budget.
- Work out all the equipment and infrastructure needs for both the new and existing building with an advisor or a consultant.
- Prioritize the equipment and infrastructure for both the new and existing building with agreed criteria.
- Place sufficient emphasis on equipment and infrastructure that will need to be built into or mounted in the buildings. These are best installed from the outset to avoid costly post construction fitting bills and disruptions.
- Carry out a baseline survey on your current equipment and infrastructure to understand where you stand, an external consultant would be most suited to do this and will give you a true picture of where you are.
- Form a list of basic equipment for each classroom. These are must-have equipment such as interactive whiteboards with built in projector, teachers’ laptops, teachers’ tool kit and other mounted fittings.
- Ensure that you have sufficient power and network points in the new building in the early stages of the planning. Engaging contractors to put this in after construction has completed will cause unsightly conduits, exposed back boxes and cable runs, not to mention the additional cost.
- Wireless infrastructure is another factor that cannot be an afterthought in any building. Concealed access points will need network cable provisions in the false ceiling and exposed access points in open spaces such as library and hall will need to be at sufficient height with cabling provision at the right position. Further details on WiFi can be found in my other posts.
- Laptops, netbooks and store and charge trolleys for whole school. 16 or 30 laptops or netbooks in trolleys together with a robust wireless infrastructure is a worthwhile investment for the whole school. These can be deployed in the classrooms and open spaces such as the library and the hall or even outdoor.
- Desktop PCs for each classroom, budget permitting, usually two or more, allow students easy access to capture and process information as part of the lesson e.g. downloading images or video from the digital camera, desktop publishing and Internet browsing.
- Often overlooked is the overall cost of ownership, one needs to factor in maintenance, support and additional warranty for these equipment. Buying a large amount of kit alone will not benefit the school or guarantee return in investment.