Schools tied to annual budgets struggle to keep up with technology purchasing so edtech advisers are stepping in

Independent advice for ICT procurement is now available through two free online portals for schools worried about falling behind with with their ICT. They help schools deal with the complexities of contracts and tendering and can point them straight to 'approved' suppliers where tendering is not necessary.

“Nine out of 10 schools do not have a three-year edtech strategy because they work on annual budget cycles," said Neil Watkins, managing director of procurement framework organisation Think IT which is collaborating with industry body Naace to create the development. "This means they make poor or reactive buying decisions.

"Many can’t afford to keep a large staff of technicians on the payroll, and even if they can these technicians rightly struggle to keep up with the pace of change in technology.

Money-saving advice for the financial crunch facing schools

Neil WatkinsWith a financial crunch closing in on schools, it is hoped that the new portals will hellp them invest strategically and wisely with reduced budgets. With no national body to give schools independent advice since the closing of the government's own ICT agency, Becta, there seems to be an increase in the number of serious allegations about schools and academy chains spending funds inappropriately and outside of the government’s own guidelines.

“In these times of shrinking budgets, having the right ICT strategy can save them from making reactive, poor and expensive ICT decisions,” added Neil Watkins.

Naace's Procurement Advisory Service, which complements advice given by the Department for Education (DfE), will guide schools through the first step of investment; understanding what edtech they need. The next stop for schools will be the Think IT Tender Portal.

This offers schools direct access to pre-approved ICT suppliers. There are 18 different product categories to choose from. Schools can buy directly from the site without having to get three quotes or go out to tender because vendors have already been through the selection vetting process and prices have been heavily negotiated, saving schools time and money. The online tools respond to the DfE's strong recommendation that schools use procurement frameworks to help save time, money and remain compliant.

‘Tools from Naace and ThinkIT can make a significant difference’  

Mark Chambers

“Most schools and multi-academy trusts don’t have the skills in-house to specify, go out to tender, evaluate technical bids, negotiate deals, review contracts and manage implementation," added Neil Watkins. "They need help and support, and that’s where Think IT comes in.”

Working directly with schools is a good move for Naace. It has just had to cancel its National Education Technology Conference because of insufficient registrations by delegates. Naace chief executive Mark Chambers (pictured right) commented, "Schools have been telling us that this support and these tools are the most important things that they have heard of recently; currently the procurement landscape for schools is full of mishaps, mistakes and wasted money; applying the tools from Naace and ThinkIT can make a significant difference."

The Naace and Think IT frameworks are available free of charge to all schools.

See also: "Stay above the tech-tonic plates with The Cloud" by Neil Watkins