Andy Goff of Bayfinch discusses how leadership teams can provide the latest cutting edge technology to staff and pupils, without breaking the bank. Chatting to him is David Horton, IT Subject Adviser at IAPS and Head of Digital Strategy at Orwell Park.
IT does work but financing IT doesn't - Andy
So it goes without saying that technology is now very important in our schools. All of our schools’ IT is now mission critical for the majority of what we do; for teaching, student learning and administration. In my 24 years in teaching, technology use has moved from “could do” to “can do” and is now an important integral part of a school’s proposition to their parents and their offspring, your students. BUT the financing of IT has never adequately supported its development, some schools have had substantial problems, and more often than not Heads of IT are familiar with “famine or feast” situations which make it hard to plan developments from year to year.
In current times financing IT developments to catch up, stay “current” or to be aspirational and lead on advances in technology that support teaching and learning is difficult.
Our situation at Orwell Park - David
Our situation was one which is not uncommon these days: we were faced with a lot of projectors and whiteboards needing replacing and at the same time were spending a lot of money provisioning a 1:1 iPad strategy. Having a mixed economy of whiteboards in terms of both device type and reliability, combined with teachers using different rooms to teach in, was also really holding back the improvement in teacher digital skills as they didn’t have confidence in the technology. The obvious “perfect world” scenario was to replace all of the projectors and boards with interactive panels, which would bring consistency as well as good connectivity for the mobile devices.
Another benefit of making the change at the same time as doing the iPad thing would be the combined impact, really giving the sense that the school has “arrived” digitally. This is helpful from a marketing perspective, but also with the overall engagement process of pupils, staff and parents.
The main challenge was always going to be persuading the bursar to find the money to do this. With all of the installations and the devices across all of our classrooms, we were looking at going into six figures. The bursar was much more in favour of a staged roll out over three to four years, but this was unsatisfactory for me as it compromised both the consistency and the impact benefits already mentioned.
I was at this point about six months ago when working with Andy Goff on presentations for the IAPS we started to discuss the work that he was doing with Bayfinch, a SMART technology partner, with their new financing models.
SMART Solution and ClaaS (Classroom as a Service) - Andy
So further to our discussions, David and I agreed to meet up at Orwell Park and go through his development plans to see how the complete SMART Solution, including software and hardware, could be combined with the ClaaS offering to bring all of Orwell Park’s aspirations to fruition at an affordable budget. The aim was to deliver a great teaching experience and increase student learning outcomes. SMART have been working on ClaaS for some time in response. The aim is to overcome difficulties encountered by schools in maintaining good current IT levels to support their teaching aspirations with technology, but few SMART resellers have grasped the power of what SMART have achieved with ClaaS and taken the time to explain it thoroughly to schools as an option.
Asking the right questions - David
Having been around IT in schools now for many years and seen so many ideas which look great to begin with, I was very much in the “if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is” mindset.
However, I have known Andy a long time as someone who knows (as a former teacher himself) and wants the best for schools. This, combined with my self-imposed determination to chase down as many rabbit holes as possible in my role as IAPS Subject Adviser, meant I wanted to understand everything intimately and be in a position to disregard ClaaS or recommend it to my school, as well as others within the IAPS. I agreed to be one of Bayfinch’s first “critical friend” schools and proceeded to look at initially at replacing all of our 25 projectors and aging interactive white boards with new interactive touch panels. So I set a hard task, fully expecting to have to compromise somewhere and cut corners or schedule developments as I’ve been used to doing from my previous experiences.
Setting the challenge - Andy
We are more than happy to help schools develop their IT vision and strategy from our experience across many schools but in Orwell Park’s case none of that was required and in no time at all the challenge was set and gauntlet was thrown at our feet to enable Orwell Park’s IT aspiration and vision. Using our deep knowledge of CLaaS we prepared an indicative quote for David to “pull apart”.
Initial Bayfinch ClaaS quote - David
I’m not really sure what I was expecting quote-wise from Bayfinch in the first instance, but I was pleasantly surprised by the detail and affordability of the initial quote. As those of you who know me well will understand, it drove me to ask a plethora of further questions and really get to grips with the detail in order to find the down-side. I wanted to have options with installation in, out, decommissioning, training, different boards from different manufacturers, and some installations with rise and lower fixings. We spent some time going back and forth, increasing and locking in the details, until I was happy that I’d got the price as good as I could and knew that we’d end up with exactly what I wanted.
Questions and diligence - Andy
As expected, there was intense scrutiny from David and The Orwell Park Bursar, but at this juncture I’d like to really thank them for their attention to detail as there were some questions that we hadn’t anticipated and for which we now had answers.
So what is ClaaS? - David
You know how you buy mobile phones, with a monthly payment which includes your support over a few years? More or less like that. However, it’s not a lease but a service subscription, the value of which is based on the depreciation of the device while in your possession, as opposed to a retail cost plus interest divided by the lease duration. This makes it much cheaper.
ClaaS is a pure operational service contract, and as such with the great residual value of premium equipment such as the SMART interactive flat panels we anticipate that we will save 30% plus over 3 years, including decommission of old equipment and installation of the new. Having completed an extensive site survey with the Bayfinch installation team I found that there were costs already factored in that I hadn’t fully appreciated so it feels like we are getting a better deal even than the one we agreed. The equipment being installed in the summer will be replenished for new in three years’ time and I know that through ClaaS that we will be able to plan and keep on top of IT refurbishment to match our aspirations of a cutting edge teaching experience. Once the money is committed on an annual basis, it’s much easier to manage, and I know I’m going to have great classroom technology to support my current teachers and attract the very best new recruits. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do a big project like this in such a sustainable way.
Your School - Andy
So it's that time of year when you have spent ages engaging with your staff, enthusing them about IT and done the professional job that you do so well of getting “IT used and away” next year by raising everyone's game and their expectations. SMART ClaaS can certainly enable the procurement of SMART equipment as demonstrated here at Orwell Park, but can go so much further to cover the majority of equipment that your school may wish to put in place. We’d be delighted to quote for your IT equipment and help your school get its IT provision to the desired level with all the added benefits. Please call us to discuss your school requirements.
Partnership - David
Those of you who know me will be aware that I set a lot of store by talking to suppliers and building relationships and I think that this is essential if schools are going to be able to get the best from technology. I hear so many stories of schools getting ripped off, but then also stories of supplier / school partnerships which are very successful. What I really like about ClaaS is the “Service” bit, where you’re not just dealing with a bunch of box-shifters, but the supplier - in this case Bayfinch - is also committed to keeping the lights on after the devices are installed. This means that it’s in their interest to make sure you have the right device, installed well, and you’re properly looked after. This has been a big revelation for me as someone who has always done everything as “on the cheap” as possible. It turns out that going higher quality is quite nice.
I would urge everyone involved in IT in schools to really engage with their suppliers, and start having some high expectations. Remember that there’s profit built in to everything and so it’s perfectly reasonable to make a supplier work for that profit. We’re often a bit reticent in that respect.
So how do I feel as the project swings into action? Like someone who wanted a Ford Mondeo but was told he had to buy it in bits, but then was told he can afford a BMW. And not only that, but it’s taxed, insured and has a full tank of fuel...