The importance of IT planning for schools

There is so much potential technology available to schools.

With the growth in education-specific software, lesson enhancing apps, as well as reporting, monitoring and communication software, a school has an opportunity to revolutionise its offering with IT.

Yet, add to this the potentials of hardware, from iPads to smartphones to interactive displays, laptops and desktops, and the planning for IT in schools becomes dizzying.

It is not just about planning and organising the IT infrastructure. There are safeguarding issues, security issues, data protection, as well as restrictive budgetary limitations.

Life without planning

The value and importance of IT in schools continue to grow. However, existing networks and systems have likely emerged in a school as a mishmash of short-term and long-term strategic decisions by school leaders. School network managers will likely experience many glitches that are a result of incompatible technologies and a mixture of old and new approaches.

The constant demand for access limits the opportunity to make the IT systems in a school more efficient and streamlined. There needs to be consistent access to IT resources for 38 of the 52 weeks of the year. A period of computer downtime is not an option and nor is an expensive buy-in of human resources and technology in a single, short-term effort.

School IT managers can, therefore, get caught in a cycle of maintenance and incremental improvements.

Life with planning

Although every IT manager in a school will inherit a system, it is not necessary for this manager to play defence forever. Strategic planning is possible. To begin planning, a school system needs a secure base of servers, network cables and computers. With excellent network software and management tools, the computers should run themselves. With this basis in place, it is possible to design a networked system that can at first run alongside this foundation and then eventually replace it.

Planning should begin with defining the needs of the school now and into the future. A starting point must be a survey and audit of the existing IT systems, including the views of colleagues on its usability. It is a good idea to visit other schools in the area, particularly those that have a strong reputation for IT excellence. The IT system aims to facilitate outstanding teaching and learning and ease the management structures of the school. Therefore, while conducting this research, it is appropriate to keep this focus central to all decisions.

Beyond the IT system

As well as planning for infrastructures, such as hardware, software and electricals, IT managers also need to prepare for the training needs of users. The IT system in a school is only as effective as the user. Although the IT manager is not responsible for the education of the student, they are accountable for the knowledge and skill of all staff who will interact with the system. Failure to plan for these training needs will make the intelligent and budget-savvy IT systems choices futile.

What is essential to recognise is that it is useful to collaborate when planning an IT system in a school. There may be a role for a third-party company who specialises in network creation and management. Alternatively, a cooperative of IT managers across a school area could reduce some of the burdens of planning an essential and effective IT system in a school.

If you think your school needs advice on making your IT infrastructure more efficient, safe and secure, please call the Serval Systems team today on 01342 895180 or email