Rethinking your ICT

Taking a greener approach to your ICT provision doesn’t have to cost the earth, says Lindsey Marsh, author of The School Fundraising Handbook

There are lots of ways schools can resource and fundraise for ICT equipment, so review the options and decide what works best for you. Keep up to date with developments in technology, as it is becoming greener all the time and thus constantly offering new ways to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.

Refurbish and recycle

There are many benefits of using second-hand and refurbished goods. Not only can you save money, but you are diverting items away from landfill, promoting re-use and helping to conserve the resources and energy that would be required to make something new. The website Donate a PC is a free platform that connects donors with good causes. Depending on what is on offer, schools may access donations of computers, printers, monitors and more.

Schools can also buy refurbished  equipment, such as computers, tablets, mobile phones and printers, from ICT recycling charities. Computer Aid, for example, resells computers that have been donated by businesses, including Sony and British Airways. They are sold to non-profit organisations for as little as £55 each. It’s really easy to apply at computeraid.org/get-computers

Seek support from stakeholders

Your school stakeholders can be really valuable when you need to fundraise. Find out if any companies you work with are able to offer grants, as some have funds exclusively for customers. Also, see what help is available from any businesses you aspire to buy from. For instance,  Soltech IT is an IT support company offering a free grant-finding service to schools and nurseries across the UK. If your school PTA is a registered charity, then try the Charity Digital Exchange. In return for a small admin fee, charities can access donations from leading technology companies such as Adobe and Cisco.

Can parents or ex-students support you? They don’t personally have to ‘give’ anything, but they might be able to access a corporate giving scheme through their employer. Amazon employees, for instance, can nominate schools to receive monetary and product donations – see aboutamazon.co.uk for details. Finally, did you know that schools can help their stakeholders too? Axis Leasing runs a scheme called Laptops for Students, where schools can help students and parents access cheaper computers through bulk purchasing and education pricing.

Look local and national

Some computer and printer manufacturers offer product donations, which schools can request. So, research businesses in your area, attend local CSR forums and networking groups, connect with companies online and try to find a match with your needs. Nationally, charities such as In Kind Direct offer money-saving deals on photocopiers, and also redistribute new goods that have been donated by well-known manufacturers and retailers. Schools can make significant savings by buying discounted goods in this way.

Reduce risk

Whether you receive product donations of new, used or refurbished equipment, always be vigilant and aware of risks. You will need to ensure equipment is PAT tested and that malicious software is not installed on any computers you intend to use. Manage risks by:

  • Wiping hard drives before using them or replace them with new ones
  • Installing software to protect your systems from malware and viruses
  • Getting an ICT expert to check machines and set them up safely
  • Carrying out due diligence (buy from reputable suppliers and only accept donations from donors whose values align with your own).

Schools not only have a legal and moral duty to minimise risks, this is also key to winning grants and avoiding costly mistakes. Most grant-makers prefer to support projects that can show they have tried to avoid risks, so factor this into your plan.

Become savings savvy

Look for ways to bring your long-term energy costs down and become a more sustainable school. Laptops are usually cheaper to run than desktop computers, as they consume fewer watts per hour. However, tablets and smartphones use less energy still. Consider what this means for your school. Could teachers use tablets rather than power-hungry desktops to take class registers?

Ten tips to save on ICT

  1. Do a school energy audit and replace power-hungry machines with eco alternatives, or reconfigure the power settings to conserve energy.
  2. Use a wattmeter to help guide your power saving efforts. Is it better to power computers off when not in use (and re-boot when needed) or is it better to leave them on standby?
  3. Adopt good energy saving practices – print on both sides of paper and recycle where possible. Did you know schools can raise money by recycling old printer cartridges? Check out Empties Please.
  4. Service your equipment to extend its lifespan. Look after your equipment and your equipment will look after you!
  5. Re-evaluate your purchase intentions. Can the power of the internet, video conferencing software and virtual reality teaching help you save money on traditional telephone calls, trip costs and training methods? Can apps and multifunctional devices save you from buying new, separate resources?
  6. Weigh up the pros and cons of leasing ICT equipment. If technology is constantly evolving, do you want to be stuck with outdated machines?
  7. Collaborate with other schools. Can you share resources or joint-purchase to save money?
  8. Check out the government’s national deals. Look at procurement frameworks to get the best deals on ICT, energy and utilities: find-dfe-approved-framework.service.gov.uk/list
  9. Organise ‘Green Days’. Get the free Green Day: A Climate Change Activity Kit for Schools at designcouncil.org.uk/resources/guide/green-day-climatechange-activity-kit-schools
  10. Get involved with the Eco-Schools programme