Apple in education; Affordability and value

Apple in education; Affordability and value

Robert Woods is a Director at KRCS and leads the education team to deliver support for schools and colleges with Apple technology. He is also a co-opted school governor at a large primary school in south Nottinghamshire helping to guide the IT strategy for the school, as well as support the SLT and teachers in their work.


The topic of affordability is always on the agenda when we discuss iPad & Mac projects with schools. We have delivered a number of Leadership events to trusts and academy groups over the last few months, and here's how it normally runs:-

1. KRCS and Apple present their joint vision for their products and services in education. We highlight the commitment to the UK education space over the last 35 years by both Apple and KRCS and demonstrate the latest classroom tools and services. The focus is on the best practice for teachers and students and how to deliver the curriculum in the most engaging way possible.

2. The school leaders discover new ways of using Apple technology that they may never have seen before and are inspired to try to deliver that for the teachers and students in their school. They see the value that it brings.

3. The school leaders table the question: "but how can we afford to bring this into our school?"

And that is a very good question. Schools face many challenges around budget including higher costs of pensions and NI, teacher pay reviews, retention of sufficient TA's to support the teachers and government reviews of school funding such as the 'Fairer Funding Formula'. An article from TES in April 2018 estimates that school funding has dropped nationally by 8.8% since April 2015. Schools may even find that the minimum funding of £3,300 per primary school place, and £4,600 for a secondary school place may be diluted by Local Authority 'soft formulas'.

It's important for schools when evaluating spend on technology that the focus is on value, rather than price per unit. Consideration should be on how the new investment can transform the learning for the students. How can it deliver new learning possibilities and bring the curriculum to life in a way that the previous IT provision did not? It's no longer enough to buy devices that can display a PDF, to replace the previous photocopied worksheet. This is a simple substitution of one technique with another, and will not inspire children to develop the critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity that employers say are their most sought-after skills. iPad brings possibilities far beyond this, new ways of delivering the curriculum to bring it to life, and has the camera, battery life, operating system and ecosystem capable of delivering it.

By investing in the best technology for the classroom schools can also address other challenges. How do you attract the best teachers to your school, and how can you improve the teaching of existing staff? Demonstrating to prospective and existing teachers that you are investing in their ability to inspire the students will surely benefit the school in the long term.

But back to the nuts and bolts of affordability. How does a school pay for all this?

School's may or may not have built up a pot of money to invest in technology. Even if they have, it is financially prudent to keep a reserve for the inevitable boiler breakdown or roof leaks. As a governor at a school originally built as a hospital in 1951 with very thick walls and structures, I've seen how costly repairs and maintenance can be!

All schools should consider leasing IT equipment rather than buying it outright. iPads and Macs are unique in the market in that they retain a very high 'residual value' after 2 or 3 years. This means that the cost of leasing equipment is often lower than the price of buying outright.

Let’s consider this example…

A primary school wants to equip their students with a one-between-two iPad solution in Key Stage 2. Each of the 8 classes will have 15-16 devices in protective cases, plus one for the teacher. Apple TV will be used to display the teachers' iPad for the class to see on a large screen TV, and to showcase the student’s work. The school will subscribe to KRCS's FirstClass Managed Service for Schools for 3 years, to take away entirely the job of deploying, managing & configuring the iPads (you can read more about our managed service here). Sync/Charge cases will be purchased to store and charge the devices securely overnight. They also wish to invest in 9 training days over the 3 year period to ensure teachers are confident in best-practice with iPad.

The approximate price of this is £40,000 + VAT.

The school does not have a capital sum to put towards this purchase but nor do they want to buy this new iPad solution over time. The impact will be far greater if it is deployed all at once, and in the next few months (we'll assume a pilot project has been completed, and that teachers have already been familiarised with iPad).

The school has a problem, it believes it cannot afford to invest in the best solution.

However there is an annual IT budget of £10,000, and the school pays £4,000 per year for a part-time bought-in IT technician to look after the existing IT provision (PC workstations).

Furthermore, KRCS are able to offer a lease for this iPad project. It is an operating lease and complies with government regulations on school leasing. Because the iPads have a high residual value, the lease is only £12,000 per year. Less than the outright purchase price over 3 years.

And because KRCS's Managed Service takes away all the work from the school in keeping the devices 'ready-to-teach', the bought-in IT technician can be reduced to zero, or at least halved.

So now the school can afford the lease from the annual budget and savings on IT staff. Next, consideration is given to the reduction in photocopying and purchasing of textbooks. The school decides that learning materials will be created by teachers over the coming months and years, that address the curriculum and reduce the need for textbooks. The new materials will be more engaging and relevant for modern students.

Then consideration is given to the saving in teacher workload offered by systems such as Showbie, allowing teachers to hand-out and gather students work electronically and mark it in a more efficient and beneficial manner. Students get immediate verbal and written feedback, and the AFL benefits can be clearly envisaged.

The school is able to see savings of several thousand pounds per year in teacher-time and money spent on books and photocopying.

The project is now costing less than the annual IT budget, and the school can put money aside for purchasing a few paid-for apps for the iPads.

This is a simple example. We could also have thought about Pupil Premium funding, and how the iPads could be used to reduce the money spent on other software systems and intervention techniques for the children receiving that funding.

The conclusion that I hope can be reached is that the value brought by investing in the best technology for the classroom and the savings that can be made with leasing and other efficiencies make projects like this affordable. As a governor, I believe that this kind of ambition and focus on providing the best possible opportunity for the students is something that I would strongly support, and I’m sure many others would too.


For more information on Apple projects in your school, please contact us on 0115 9851797 or email info@krcs.co.uk and we’ll get in touch.

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