Our primary education leaders are facing challenges like never before…

Our primary education leaders are facing challenges like never before…

Let’s face it; things are pretty rough for everyone right now but, I wanted to spare a few words for those, typically very genuine, caring people, who play such an important role in the early lives of those little ones we all hold most dear.

Now, I’m not about to pretend to fully understand all of the challenges our primary school leadership teams face so, we’ll be focussing here on budget cuts, some of their side-effects, and the risks to your sensitive data, now only amplified by COVID.

Money’s tight…

According to a 2019 IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) report, despite ‘The extra £4.3 billion committed for schools in England by 2022’, this still represented (as at Sept ’19) an ‘effective 13-year real-terms freeze’ on spending, per-pupil, in England.

Read more here

I could be wrong here, but I feel fairly confident asserting; few of us have found any costs have decreased when compared to 13-years ago…!

Ofsted is inclined to agree…

The financial pressures this situation brings are described in a February 2020 report by Ofsted themselves (based on a survey of over 200 headteachers, plus 18 telephone interviews, and 16 school visits) as resulting in:

  • 46% of primary heads cutting teacher numbers in the preceding 2yrs.

  • 87% reducing the number of teaching assistants.

    • This is despite growing class sizes!

  • Almost half certain they would be in debt by the summer (of 2020).

  • Some Heads requesting “contributions from parents in response to budgetary pressure”.

As reported by ‘i’ news, the education watchdog’s report also contains various worrying quotes from school leaders and teachers, such as:

  • “To plug the gaps [staff are] working 60 to 70-hour weeks.” “We are now seeing good people leaving the profession.”

  • “We are constantly patching things up rather than doing things properly… This feels unsustainable”.

One Headteacher interviewed by ‘i’ revealed he’d ‘spent a half-term break rehanging doors and painting corridors because he was forced to make his caretaker redundant’!

Read more here

So, money’s (not) too tight to mention and half of primary schools are likely now (Simply) in the Red (I apologise to those too young for that reference!), resulting in our school heads and business managers/bursars, quite understandably compelled to spend no more on technology than is deemed absolutely necessary to fulfil the minimum requirements.

This has been evidenced in each school we at FORTIFIED have helped.  Without exception.

But is this the right approach…? The only option? Or does it simply leave our school’s already sparse funds vulnerable to the ‘false economy’?

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

Ok…an Albert Einstein quote is admittedly a little over the top but, I’m gonna throw it out there, nonetheless. Along with the assertion that when it comes to technology; you will never save money focusing purely on cost.

Let’s take the humble PC to illustrate our point…

Buying a cheap computer is almost guaranteed to lose you money…

“Pfft…!” I hear you scoff! Nevertheless, read on and I shall gladly furnish you with sufficient persuasive argumentation to convince even the most ardent sceptics among you!

Firstly, it may surprise you to learn; the difference in cost between desktop computers designed for the ‘consumer’ vs. the ‘enterprise’ (large commercial organisations), can be as little as £20 (or, £5 per-year, over a 4yr life).

Secondly, a single unplanned computer restart per-week – required when a ‘low-end’ computer’s memory is frequently exhausted – will cost you at least £113.36 over 4yrs, which fact alone renders buying ‘cheap’ nonsense.

That’s before we account for:

  • Improved performance (and therefore productivity) a computer of an appropriate specification will bring for its entire useful life.

  • Paired with, (typically) improved reliability, resulting in lower hardware repair costs, and the downtime associated with such.

  • The 3yr, on-site, parts and labour warranty frequently also included, all-but entirely indemnifying schools from any costs, post-purchase.

All of which can be enjoyed whilst paying nothing up-front and nothing for the privilege, when procured through an operating lease.

You multiply that one example by the number of computers in the school – frequently into the hundreds – and all of a sudden, we’re looking at 10s of thousands of pounds of wasted cash.

And that’s without mentioning a single other component of the technology environment. So, the tenuous link to the Einstein quote at the start of this section? 

Anyone can procure successfully, but delivering value is what matters.

Now, that’s a very simple example, but there are, sadly, a great many more, spanning hardware, software and services, across all layers of the technology environment. All of which means schools are at very real risk of missing out on a great deal of deployable budget.

Threadbare budgets amplify an already significant risk to information security within schools…

I don’t think many would disagree that, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been further-reaching and more disruptive than most could have imagined at the start of the year.

Whilst world-leaders, for the most part, scramble from one ineffective countermeasure to another (though the recent progress on vaccines is certainly welcome news), with certain sectors disproportionately affected, and economic support packages allowing millions to fall through the cracks in others, organised criminal groups (OCGs) have capitalised on the fog of fear and uncertainty created by this modern-day plague to enjoy greater success than ever in their efforts to part us with our hard-earned cash.

COVID: The cybercriminal’s dream…?

Whilst ‘COVID-themed’ phishing (not to mention smishing and vishing) campaigns are now the norm, cybercriminals are also profiting from the fact that the once novel home-working model has reached near-ubiquity in the blink of an eye, allowing IT teams little time to consider the additional risks inherent therein, let alone evaluate, select, design, procure, implement, and train staff on the solutions required to mitigate the associated risks.

We though are speaking specifically about the threat to schools so, the warning issued by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre in September that the education sector is being actively targeted by cybercriminals using tactics to infect schools with Ransomware which, as most now know, remains one of the most devastating forms of cyber-attack.

Not only might you spend weeks recovering from such an attack but, the latest, deeply worrying trend involves the criminals posting sensitive data stolen from their victims on the public internet, for all to see, should the ransom go unpaid.

Read more here

So, what’s the answer…?

Well, whilst things remain as uncertain as they are, long-term planning is close to impossible so, focusing purely on the current challenges:

When considering any procurement…

Take professional advice (from us, ideally 😉) to ensure your spending on the right mix of technologies to best support your endeavours, avoid any false economy, and maximise value. Essentially, you’re looking to understand your requirements well, so you’re equipped to effectively evaluate options and select whichever is most closely aligned to such.

To safeguard your sensitive data it’s essential to:

  1. IDENTIFY your data assets, understanding the location, nature and sensitivity, access rights in operation, and the rationale for such.

  2. PROTECT the systems on which it’s stored (servers, cloud systems), and those from which it’s accessed (typically your desktops, laptops and mobile devices).

  3. MONITOR such systems for risks, system health and cyber-related.

  4. RESPOND to threats when they do come – and they will.

  5. RECOVER from incidents as quickly and effectively as possible.

So, the big question now is; are you vulnerable to a cyber-attack?

Well, to find out, reach out!

Don’t get hacked…  Get FORTIFIED…!

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