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IT is an essential part of our business lives with ever-changing technologies and the desire of some to always have the latest and the best. Yet, affordability and fitness for purpose must be considerations for everyone in the Education Sector, especially as resources are tight.

The above may be stating the obvious, but with nearly 2,000 providers across the country, just in the post 16 area alone, the annual spend by providers on essential and the desirable IT equipment and associated services must be in excess of £100m. There are a myriad of options to run IT services, supporting learners and enabling the key business operations to function, yet how many have really examined that they are fit for purpose.

A simple recent survey of a number of providers within the past six months identified the following issues for concern:

  • Very few providers have gone through the process of cyber essentials certification – surely we must all want some assurance about our security and the security of our employee/learner data.
  • Whilst many providers have some form of firewall at the front door of their systems, very few had any form of firewalls or monitoring over the use of software on equipment used by trainers or learners, causing real risk for Safeguarding across the business.
  • Most providers are small – resources are spread thinly meaning an exposure to greater risk and vulnerability across the organisation.
  • For larger providers, including Colleges, few have reviewed whether their in house teams are as cost effective as outsourcing to a third party provider.
  • For those that have outsourced, the range of pricing per user that is being charged is extremely varied – from as little as £15 to more than £40 per month. These costs quickly climb as a provider begins to grow.
  • There are many additional costs associated with IT Services, software licensing, staff costs and the ancillary printing costs. Have you asked about educational discounts that may be available?

Therefore, it is time for everyone to look at your IT Services. Outsourcing could be the answer for some, certainly one thing we should all do is review our software access, firewall controls and certainly Cyber Essentials is a good discipline for self-assessment and an essential for lots of Public Sector tendering.

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