Ray BarkerRay BarkerThe latest British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) "ICT in UK State Schools" report reveal that schools are planning to cut an estimated £75 million from their ICT budgets by the next academic year. In 2009 schools spent £577 million on ICT products and services – a rise of £50 million on 2005 levels – and the estimated figure for 2011 is £502m.

But it is not a knee-jerk reaction to impending Government cuts according to Ray Barker, director of BESA, who says: “The BESA ICT in UK State Schools research indicates that after year-on-year increases in ICT budgets since 2001, we are now naturally experiencing a reduction in estimated ICT allocations.

“Despite schools being faced with many financial pressures, the survey indicates schools are managing the cuts sensibly and with optimism. This is in part due to the efficient procurement of resources by many schools as well as a drop in prices of individual units. They may be spending less, but they can get more for their money.”

'At least 365,000 school computers are more than five years old and considered ineffective'

Of the 1,379 (812 primary and 567 secondary) schools surveyed, more than half confirm they will press ahead with their planned ICT investment but indications are they will spend less on items such as laptops and desktops. This is even though the report highlights at least 365,000 school computers are more than five years old and ”considered ineffective for teaching the curriculum due to either age or specification”. In the average primary school this is 7.3 desktops and 16 per cent of their laptops. For secondary schools the figure is 49 and 13 per cent respectively.

The research, which was conducted during June and July, also reports that 71 per cent of primary schools and 70 per cent of secondary schools believe staff get good access to computer equipment for curriculum purposes. Meanwhile 88 per cent of primary schools felt that they provided good internet access levels to teachers (75 per cent in secondary schools).

And when it comes to the level and quality of digital content, those surveyed said they were looking forward to 2011 when they expected to be “well resourced”. The current picture indicates that 48 per cent of the primary schools that responded thought their schools was well resourced (32 per cent in secondary schools).

“The figures show that there have never been so many computers and interactive whiteboards in UK classrooms,” adds Ray Barker. “Those schools indicating they feel under-equipped in vital ICT equipment, such as laptop computers and internet access for pupils, do so mainly because their levels of expectation have grown over recent years.“

The full report is available from the BESA website