With an increase in software and handheld learning in modern-day education, Tim Roots, director of IT vision, explains why headteachers should have a sound understanding of asset management

The school revenue funding settlement, which was announced by Jim Knight, school’s minister at the DCSF, in November 2007, ensures that schools are fiscally, and lawfully, aware of their budget spends. For many schools, prioritising resources in a strategic way is not currently high on the agenda, and this needs to be addressed. As with all new initiatives, schools, headteachers and teaching staff are wary of how to implement new procedures, and where the funding will come from to meet each target. With the allocated funding being disseminated to, and by, local authorities (LA), each school can make better long-term decisions and use budgets more strategically.

What assets should headteachers know about?
Asset management requires an ordered approach to identify and manage educational resources, such as interactive whiteboards, science equipment, sports equipment and furniture.

Nigel Pressnell, deputy headteacher of the Arnewood School commented: ‘Asset management strategically plans ICT development in a coherent and timely manner. It guides school leader towards sensible purchasing decisions and takes the burden of auditing away from staff, allowing them to do what they do best – teach. Under our school’s ‘Laptop for Learning’ scheme, all 120 members of staff, and 200 out of the 1,300 students, have their own laptops. By 2012, every student will have a laptop. This highlights our need for a good understanding of all assets and future purchases.’

Frequently, the replacement of computers requires a significant proportion of a school’s resources funding. Schools should have a system in place that enables them to forecast future annual costs – for example the ability to report on lease or warranty expiry. In addition, when purchasing new software, schools need to know which computers will not meet the required minimum specification.

Birmingham City Council has started to endorse the ‘duty of care’ that schools should address, with regards to asset management. Andy Jackson, the children, young people and families directorate of Birmingham City Council explained: ‘Schools have a duty of care to know what software is on every school-owned computer. Expecting a school to carry out a regular manual audit on every computer, especially on student and teacher laptops, is unrealistic.’

Software asset management
Many headteachers and teaching staff are unaware of the copyright laws, as well as the possible fines that can be incurred for the use of unlicenced software. In order to promote legal software licensing, this is an essential issue to address in education.

Hilary McDougal, school network manager of Millais Secondary School, commented: ‘To manually ensure the school’s software licence compliancy is a full-time job for one person, and an ICT audit is a daunting prospect. We have 1,500 school children at Millais, and, as e-safety rules state, it is the school’s duty of care to know what software is being installed on each school computer.’

Budget forecasts
Each school that uses an automated asset management system can ensure accurate asset forecasts, make better long-term decisions, and use budgets more efficiently and strategically, to secure a better future for their school.

In the London Borough of Wandsworth, three-year budget forecasts are high on the agenda. Gary Hipple, head of children’s services, ICT, explained: ‘The London Borough of Wandsworth wanted all of their schools to have a detailed view of all their assets, whether this be a computer or a chair. Schools need to be able to produce accurate three-year budget forecasts.’

So where is the gap in knowledge?
In discussing asset management with secondary schools and headteachers across the country, it has become apparent that numerous educational establishments have a clear-cut understanding of who is accountable. If a school is to take a step forward in modern-day education, an understanding of asset management is highly recommended. Steve Beswick, Microsoft UK education director, believes that managing and tracking assets within an educational institution is becoming time consuming and expensive, especially as the complexity of IT systems increases. Schools can save considerable time and money by having an automated licence management system.

A school has the same responsibilities as a business when it comes to software licence compliance, and a headteacher is as liable as company directors. The requirement to know exactly what is on a computer even stretches to teachers’ and students’ laptops owned by the school, whatever agreement may be in place. Headteachers need to carefully consider deployment of asset management solutions in their school to ensure a compliant future.

For further information see www.itvision.net/content/view/253/250