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UK schools facing up to IT budget cuts

Stone Group research highlights the key problems facing schools as they square up to IT budget cuts this year

Schools are facing budget cuts this year which is causing mounting concern regarding delivery of IT in 2010, according to a survey by system builder Stone Group.

Independent research house Redshift Research, on behalf of Stone Group, questioned IT decision makers in the UK education sector last December, to produce its ICT in Education report.

According to the results which were released at the BETT show in London today, 82 per cent of schools are facing "real-term" budget cuts this year, and 84 per cent cite budgetary constraint as the number one concern regarding the delivery of IT in 2010.

Even more worryingly, just 14 per cent of schools offer out of hours technical support to schools and staff, the research found, with security the number two concern for delivering IT (40 per cent) as schools struggle to comply with stringent and complex government guidelines. Despite this, just six per cent have a dedicated security budget and just three per cent rely on external advice in this area.

James Bird, chief executive of Stone Group, said: "Students and teachers are now completely reliant upon the availability of robust, reliable and secure IT solutions to undertake their daily activities.

"Failure to take any steps to change the way IT is delivered in 2010 will undoubtedly result in cost cutting that will affect both the quality of current IT service delivery and any chance of undertaking continual improvement."

Over half (51 per cent) of respondents revealed they use no external IT support services either, relying on internal skills to keep their networks and systems running.

The lack of a flexible IT delivery model will become an increasing problem for education establishments, the research claimed. A total of 93 per cent of respondents provide their own network management, 91 per cent provide desktop management, a further 90 per cent provide their own application support, and server management is handled by 87 per cent of schools.

In positive news for the channel, the majority of respondents seemed to avoid any external service providers. On top of the 51 per cent not using external providers, just 15 per cent are outsourcing to a third-party provider, 22 per cent use externally managed services, a total of 19 per cent are leasing rather than purchasing outright, 18 per cent are acquiring via a consortium and 27 per cent are open sourcing.

Bird added: "Budget cuts are inevitable in 2010, but it is clear from this research that schools and colleges are not currently following what is occurring elsewhere in the public sector by considering the use of external resources to maximise the quality of service delivery on the available budget."

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