In these times of austerity, schools face two key challenges when purchasing ICT equipment – they need to ensure that their ICT procurement is financially sustainable, while remaining compliant with the stringent Government guidelines on borrowing. Acquiring ICT equipment through a specialist education funding provider like LDF can be an effective way to ensure that both challenges are met.
With real-terms cuts in the UK’s education budget now stretching into their fifth year, the need for schools to get the most from limited ICT spending power is stronger than ever. At the same time, the Government has placed a new emphasis on IT, so that pupils leave school with a fuller understanding of programming.
We are now reaching the end of the academic year, the time at which the majority of schools make their procurement decisions for the new school year. This is also the time of year when business managers, teacher and headteachers across the UK are reminded just how difficult it can be to balance immediate needs with long-term management of costs when purchasing ICT equipment.
One of the biggest pressures on schools’ ICT budgets comes from parents who quite rightly expect to see up-to-date ICT equipment in their children’s schools. If schools do not maintain a rolling programme of ICT upgrades, their explanations of reduced budgets are not likely to be well received by parents.
For schools in this situation, an operating lease agreement from LDF can be the solution they need to maintain their programmes of ICT upgrades despite their restricted budgets, while staying within all current accounting guidelines.
An LDF leasing solution can ensure that schools maximise the return on their ICT budgets, and secure the right equipment for their pupils’ needs. Equipment can be delivered and installed immediately, while the cost is spread over a 3-5 year term.
Many schools are finding themselves under particular pressure to supply pupils with tablet devices such as iPads to support personalised learning.. Few schools can afford up-front outlays of tens of thousands of pounds for tablet devices, on top of the desktop computers, laptops, printers and networking equipment already needed.
For schools looking for an alternative to those high up-front costs, LDF Gateway is a popular funding solution. An LDF Gateway operating lease ensures that every pupil has his or her own tablet device, while reducing the financial pressure on schools.
An LDF Gateway agreement includes recommended monthly parental contributions, which are collected by a third-party service and paid back to the school. The administrative burden of setting up and maintaining parental contributions is carried entirely by this collection service.
At the end of the agreement – typically after two or three years – the parents are able to take ownership of the device, providing the potential for continued educational benefits long after payments have ended.
The second major challenge for schools that recognise the value of leasing arrangements is ensuring that any agreement they enter into is compliant with Government and Local Authority regulations on schools’ borrowing.
We are all too aware that a number of schools have suffered financial harm due to the actions of a handful of rogue leasing companies, who misled schools into accepting extremely disadvantageous agreements for leased ICT equipment.
That’s why we only offer schools the most transparent operating leases, which are in line with all current accounting guidelines used by schools. We encourage schools to investigate every aspect of the agreement, to ensure that an LDF operating lease is the right solution for their needs and financial situations.
That’s why LDF is the only finance company recommended by the National Association of School Business Management (NASBM).
To meet the challenges of ensuring sustainability and compliance in schools’ ICT procurement, it’s vitally important that schools investigate the options available to them through an operating lease agreement.
Schools are expected to obtain quotes for ICT equipment purchases from at least three different equipment suppliers. However, it has been our experience that not all take that careful approach when seeking a lease agreement for that equipment, and instead accept the lease agreement proposed by the supplier.
We often find that education leasing specialists like LDF are able to offer much more competitive operating lease agreements than the equipment supplier, and we believe it is always in schools’ best interests to ‘shop around’ to find the best deal for their needs.
If you have any questions about your school’s ICT needs, I’m going to be leading a seminar at EdExec LIVE, Education Executive’s annual one-day event for school business managers, on June 18th at London’s Business Design Centre.
We hope to see you there.