iPads For All?

Back in May I wrote a fairly lengthy piece looking at IT Provision In Secondary Schools in 2011.  Go read it if you haven’t, it’s quite comprehensive and sparked a good debate. I’ll be here when you get back ready to talk a bit more about iPads….

More than just Angry Birds

More than just Angry Birds!

…Read it? Good.  As you read I strongly believe the iPad offers an incredible solution for 1-2-1 provision in schools that could have a huge impact on teaching and learning and hence progress.  

So I’ve delved deeper into the various possible solutions on offer to us.  First of all I’ve run through my sums on the cost of just continuing as we are with laptops and desktops. £80,000 a year.  That’s a lot of money.  And we sure are used to having this much kit in our school (300 desktops, 250 laptops for 750 pupils & 100 staff).  As per previous post – I don’t want to continue down that expensive and inefficient path.

I also had the pleasure of visiting the Essa Academy to see their work with iPod Touches. Inspirational stuff that only made me more determined to find a modern solution to IT access at our school.

Apple have also announced some of the finer details of the upcoming iOS5 operating system for iPads.  One of the key selling points from Steve Jobs was ’cutting the chord’.  iPads will no longer require a PC to be synced and backed up to.  This cuts out a massive hurdle that concerned me with the idea of iPads on a grand scale.  Devices could be managed by pupils regardless of their existing IT provision at home.

That previous piece of writing sparked one kind soul (Thanks Paul!) to point me in the direction of the E-Learning Foundation. How this charity had passed me by I have no idea. The E-Learning Foundation specialise in managing parental contributions to 1-2-1 device deployments for schools. In a nutshell, because they are a charity they can claim gift aid on parental contributions.  This gift aid is used to fund the costs of processing parental contributions and paying for lease loan costs.  This means that we could lease iPads through the E-Learning Foundation. Parents could make donations each month and at the end of the 3 year lease they would own the device for a very small final fee.  This led me to think that maybe, just maybe we could find a way of funding one iPad per child.

I’ve also spoken to Apple and our suppliers. And I’ve done sums. Lots of sums. And they tell me that if we can get approximately half the cost of the iPads in donations from our parents, and make up the other half ourselves we can probably afford them.  Just.  And I think most schools could to.


The first thing to do is picture your school and your classrooms and the homes of your children with an iPad in each.  Is that an enticing idea?  Can you picture the changes in pedagogy, engagement, creativity, independence, collaboration, communication, home learning?  Good.  Me too.

So if that’s something worth working towards then it’s time to do some accounting.  Creative accounting.  

  • Build a new model of the number of desktops & laptops you’d need with an iPad each – work out how much they’d cost per year to maintain and replace.  That number is smaller than the one you worked out for your current provision isn’t it?  Good, start with that.
  • Find out how much your school spends on printing.  The total cost including toner, paper, printer lease.  Halve it – I think that’s conservative.  (Essa halved their costs with the introduction of iPod touches in 1 year).
  • Big ol’ paper student planners for each pupil?  Find out how much they cost.  Don’t feint!  Add it to the pot.
  • Fancy newsletters that are posted home?  Couldn’t they be emailed?  Add that on too.
  • Electricity.  Can’t remember where the figures came from but sure they were reliable enough.  £5 per year per laptop, £35 per year per desktop.  How many fewer laptops & desktops will you have?  Add that on.
  • Insurance.  Find out how your insurance is charged.  It may be based on pupils numbers, or it may be placed on the value of your assets.  There might be a saving there.
  • Calculators.  Mini whiteboards.  Pens.  Pencils.  Exercise books.  Textbooks.  Voting devices.  Video & still cameras.  Estimate a saving and add it on – not the easiest figure to value.  I suspect savings will be bigger than we think.
  • IT Technician time.  iPads will require a LOT less time to manage than all those desktops and laptops.  Can you factor that in?
  • What have I not thought of?  I’m sure there will be other savings.

That all adds up to a big old pot of money.  But in most schools that money will be spread across many budgets and departments.  This is where you will need to become very good friends with the Finance Director and also with your Leadership Team.  If you go with this plan you’ll need to cut printing, marketing, department, insurance, electricity and other budgets and put it in the iPad pot.

And don’t forget to start making deductions from your war-chest.  Wifi?  That’s going to need to be top class.  Software?  Do you want to provide a baseline of Apps?  Apple don’t currently offer the App Store Volume Purchasing discounts in the UK which is a travesty – sort it out Apple!!  Covers?  Are you going to provide them or is that another cost for parents?

Step back and look at those numbers, if you think they’re big enough to start thinking about 1-2-1 then get in contact with Apple and get in contact with your suppliers and get in contact with the E-Learning Foundation.  See if it really adds up.

That’s where I’ve got to now.  I need to firm up the numbers further and see exactly what we expect to have available in future years, then it’s time to talk to the parents.  If they buy into the vision, and buy into the donations this could just work.  If they don’t, it’s back to the drawing board. 

There’s also an ever increasing list of questions / challenges / concerns to consider and resolve:

  • Theft.  Are we making targets of our pupils?  What about internally – lunches etc?
  • Breakages.  Insurance included but will this be an issue?
  • Morals.  Are we asking households with budget pressures to fund the school?
  • Payments.  How much do we ask for?  How much do we need?  What if parents fall behind?  Multiple children?
  • Lots more, nothing insurmountable but important questions to work through for us.

So perhaps, just perhaps, this crazy scheme is possible after all.  Exciting times ahead.

Final footnote…  This awful awful article (awful on so many levels I can’t give it the time of day) has got me thinking.  For the first time in my blogging life I wonder how much I should share on here in case the poisonous Daily Mail take a dislike to this one day.  Shame they’re not part of News International really.  I’ll suffice with re-iterating that my writings here are my views and not those of my employer.

Image Credit: Robert Scoble on Flickr

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